By Denise Schultz, Courier & Press, Oct. 4, 2016 –
Underage drinking is a critical public health issue in America. Drinking is associated with the leading causes of death among young people including car crashes, unintentional injuries, murder and suicide. A 16 year old is more likely to die from a drinking-related problem than any other cause.
Nearly 23 percent of people between 12 and 20 are current alcohol users, according to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health report published by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). The report also states that over 5 million adolescents binge drink, often having five or more drinks during a single occasion, while 1.3 million are heavy consumers of alcohol.
Besides death and injury, underage drinking can result in other severe consequences. We know that children who drink alcohol are more likely to have legal issues, use drugs, get bad grades or engage in risky sexual behavior. They are also more likely to have memory problems and changes in brain development that cause lifelong effects.
Despite these findings and the fact that underage drinking is illegal, many in our society seem to view underage drinking as uncontrollable and a “rite of passage.” Many teens think it is acceptable to drink, and parents may reinforce this belief by either not saying otherwise or condoning the behavior and allowing their teen to drink “responsibly” at home.
Parents, you have the power to help prevent underage drinking by talking to your children early and often about the dangers of alcohol.
According to Frances Harding, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, “parents are the number one influencers on a young person. If every parent communicated a strong message about underage drinking, we would already have a delay in the onset of alcohol use.” The earlier you talk to your kids about alcohol, the greater chance you have of influencing their future decisions.
Studies show that kids really do listen and want their parents to talk to them about the dangers and consequences of alcohol. According to SAMHSA, around 80 percent of children feel their parents should have a say in whether or not they drink.
Short conversations in the car, while watching TV or at the dinner table are better than a long, sit-down conversation. In fact, eating dinner with your family is a particularly effective strategy. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has consistently found that the more often children eat dinner with their family, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs.
Youth First is launching a new marketing strategy, “Talk. They Hear You.” in Vanderburgh County in partnership with The Mayor’s Task Force on Substance Abuse and funded through the Division of Mental Health and Addiction’s Partnership for Success Grant.
“Talk. They Hear You.“ is a national media campaign to prevent underage drinking. The goal of the campaign is to reduce underage drinking among youth ages 9 to 15 by providing parents and caregivers with information and resources they need to start addressing the issue of alcohol with their children. The campaign includes videos, a phone app and other information to help parents talk to their kids about alcohol. You can find additional information at youthfirstinc.org or samhsa.gov.
Join us on Oct. 11 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. for an Underage Drinking Town Hall Meeting in the Browning Room at Central Library, 200 SE MLK Blvd. The panel will be introduced by Major Lloyd Winnecke, and Dennis Jon Bailey will be the moderator. Please RSVP to Denise Schultz at 812-421-8336, ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Underage drinking is a preventable problem, and community input and involvement is needed to find solutions. Be a part of the conversation and help make a difference.