According to the Office of Juvenile Justice, although the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21, young people aged 12 to 20 drink about 11 percent of all alcohol purchased in the United States.
According to SAMHSA, underage drinking is a problem shared by all communities: metropolitan areas, large metropolitan areas, and nonmetropolitan areas have similar rates of underage alcohol use. Excessive drinking is part of the issue: in 2010, among people aged 12 to 20 who reported drinking alcohol in the past month, an estimated 6.5 million people were binge drinkers and
approximately 2 million were heavy drinkers.
Alcohol use can result in short-term, long-term, and even fatal consequences for underage drinkers. It also poses a threat to the safety and well-being of other community members. Underage drinking causes or contributes to: serious physical consequences, adverse effects on young people’s developing bodies and brains, negative behaviors, situations that put others at risk and problems that can continue into adulthood.
The good news is that underage drinking can be prevented.
What Communities Can Do
Parents and Families
Many young people identify parents as the leading influence in their decision to drink or not to drink, making it important for
parents and caregivers to take an active role in preventing underage alcohol use. Monitor your children or other young family members for signs that may indicate involvement in underage drinking. It’s important to remember that these behaviors could also point to other problems.
Some signs that may point to involvement in underage drinking are:
Rebelling against family rules;
Switching friends, along with a reluctance to let you get to know the new friend;
A lack of involvement in former interests;
Mood changes, defensiveness, or a “nothing matters” attitude;
Lack of coordination; and
Educators and School Administrators
Educators and school administrators have an opportunity to discuss the risks of drinking alcohol with their students. You
can help prevent underage drinking by:
Encouraging student involvement in school, a proven factor in reducing underage drinking.
Creating an environment that helps students explore their talents and follow their passions.
Being a caring adult and a mentor.
Relaying information to parents about school policies and the dangers of underage drinking.
Enforcing strict policies against alcohol use on school property and at school events.
Equipping students with knowledge, skills, and motivation to resist pressures to drink.
Putting policies and a mechanism in place for referring students to the appropriate health care providers or other personnel if they need services or treatment.
When discussing or proposing a prevention effort, remember that effective community prevention interventions require a mix of
program components and policy strategies. These might include:
Media campaigns, speeding and drunk driving awareness days, and promotion of telephone help lines;
Peer-led education activities in high schools, programs for college students, and the establishment of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapters;
Information for retail alcohol outlets about underage drinking, health risks, and legal consequences;
Responsible beverage service training programs and the restricted sale of alcohol at public events;
Support for social host liability laws, sobriety and traffic safety checkpoints, and graduated driver licensing laws; and
Enforcement of underage drinking laws.
Find out about underage drinking issues in your community, what your community is already doing to address the problem, and what actions are still needed.
Educate neighbors and community, local, State and Federal leaders about underage drinking issues in your community. Urge them to support policies that combat underage alcohol use.
Please join us for a presentation titled “Time to Re-think Teens & Drinking” at Ada Area Chemical Dependency Center tonight to learn more about this issue and ways to help. The presentation will take place in the Irving Building Room 15 located at 704 N. Oak in Ada, OK from 6:00-7:30 p.m. You can contact AACDC for more information at (580) 332-3001.
This information is being brought to you by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Pontotoc
County Drug Free Coalition as part of Nation Prevention Week 2012. Stay tuned for more information throughout Prevention Week.