2010-Feb-01,Medford teens use texting to help peers say no

Parents who wish their teens would quit texting so much may change their tune, thanks to a new text messaging service that Medford High students recently launched to help their peers say no to drugs and alcohol at parties.

The youth organization Teens Against Drinking and Drugs - or TADD, an offshoot of the local nonprofit Medford Health Matters - launched the service about three months ago.

The service, dubbed "I'm Allergic to Stupid Decisions,'' kicks into action when youths text TADD to 69302.

Soon after, they receive a message with one of three pieces of information: an excuse to help them refuse a drink, a fact on underage drinking, or a pithy barb suggesting an alternative to booze and drugs.

To date, 130 youths have received over 1,000 texts, according to TADD advisor Gisela Rots.

"We want people to know that most youths DON'T drink, and that sometimes they just need to know there are more youth like them,'' Rots said in an e-mail.

Two sample texts that youths may receive are, "I need these brain cells for college," and "Have you seen 'The Hangover'? I'll be missing a tooth and will have a mystery baby!''

Rots said the group has advertised the service on Facebook, Twitter, and through other means, adding that a marketing expert has provided free advice.

Jenn Mui, a senior at Medford High and one of about 15 youths who worked on the project, recalled the brain-storming sessions that occurred last year.

"A bunch of us came up with excuses," said Mui, who hopes to study communications in college. "What would we say if we were in a pressure situation?''

Rots said the entire initiative cost under $2,000, with funding from a state grant allocated to the Medford Board of Health.

"We hope that youth will begin using it at anytime they need it," Rots said.

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