Drug Education Council Addresses Underage Drinking
On Wednesday, November 18, 2016, Virginia Guy, the Executive Director of the Drug Education Council, and Michael Cook, the Drug Education Council’s Baldwin County Director joined with some of our community’s most dedicated leaders to address underage drinking. The following is the message delivered to our community:
We are facing a crisis in our community …. a crisis that is putting our young people in danger ….. and threatening the health and safety of our families. This crisis is the widespread incidents of underage drinking and the acceptance of this harmful behavior by parents and other adults, as either a rite of passage or a belief that teenagers are going to drink and there is nothing they can do about it.
First, we must understand that recent neuroscience research tells us that the brain is not fully developed until our early 20s. The last part of the brain to be wired controls the executive functions – things like impulse control, anticipating consequences, judgement and decision-making. Exposing this undeveloped brain to alcohol can prime the brain for addiction. In fact, youth who begin drinking before the age of 15, are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse than those who begin drinking at age 21 or older.
And there are other risks. When teens drink, they don’t sip on alcohol. More than 90% of the alcohol consumed by teens is in the form of binge drinking.
Also, teaching teens to drink at home is an outdated theory. The research is clear about this: teens who drink at home with their parents are heavier drinkers when out with their friends, than teens who are not allowed to drink at home.
The teen years are a developmental time of natural risk taking. When this is fueled with alcohol, teens are at an even greater risk for danger. 95% of all violent crimes and 90% of sexual assaults involve the use of alcohol by the assailant, the victim, or both. And of course, we all know that drinking and drugged driving is the #1 cause of death, injury and disability for young people under the age of 21.
Now that we know these physical, psychological and emotional dangers, as parents and adults, we need to develop a plan and work together to keep our families safe.
The good news is that 80% of teens say that the single biggest influence on their decision about whether or not to use alcohol is … their parents. Although it often doesn’t seem like it, teenagers are watching and listening to their parents. So parents, your children and your community need you to step up and take a stand… and put an end to underage drinking. This responsibility should not fall to law enforcement or our schools. Parents are the frontline of defense in preventing underage drinking, and this problem will end only when parents take action.
The Drug Education Council and the Underage Drinking Task Force are here to support you with resources and programs. And we are available to talk individually with families about their specific situations.
Again, this will not be easy, but it is the right thing to do. We can no longer sit back and allow underage drinking to destroy our teenagers’ and our families’ lives. PARENTS WHO CARE will not allow underage drinking. Our children are worth this fight.