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Teen drinking a costly problem

POSTED: April 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Alcohol Awareness Month began as a way of reaching the American public with information about the disease of alcoholism-that is a treatable disease, not a moral weakness, and that alcoholics are capable of recovery. As a national public awareness campaign, Alcohol Awareness Month has featured honorary chairpersons such as Senator George McGovern, Dr. David Satcher the former Surgeon General, Barry McCaffrey the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and New York Yankees baseball star Derek Jeter. A primary focus of Alcohol Awareness Month over the years has been Underage Drinking and the devastating effects it can have on our youth.

Alcohol is the drug most frequently used by high school seniors, and its use is increasing. It is reported that teens usually try alcohol for the first time at just 11 years old! Underage drinking is a factor in nearly half of all teen automobile crashes and contributes to youth suicides, homicides, and fatal injuries. Additionally, alcohol abuse is linked to as many as two-thirds of all sexual assaults and date rape of teens.

How do youth access alcohol? Approximately 2 out of 3 teenagers who drink report that they can buy their own alcoholic beverages

Why do youth drink? Among teenagers who binge drink, 39% say they drink alone, 58% drink when they are upset, 30% drink when they are bored and 37% drink to feel ‘good’

While the issue of Underage Drinking is a complex problem, one that can only be solved through a sustained and cooperative effort between parents, schools, community leaders and the children, there are three areas which have proven to be effective in prevention of underage drinking: (1) curtailing the availability of alcohol, (2) consistent enforcement of existing laws and regulations, and (3) changing cultural misconceptions and behavior through education.

Bryan County Family Connection collaborative and community partners continue to strive for a community where youth will have a solid foundation to develop and maintain healthy attitudes and behaviors.

Through local efforts such as the Fatal Vision program, Risky Behavior Task Force-Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws, mentoring and volunteer opportunities: our partners are working to ensure that all youth have positive developmental assets. We strive for PREVENTION!

Studies prove that middle school and high school students consume 35 percent of all wine coolers sold in the United States; they also consume 1.1 billon cans of beer per year!

The total cost of alcohol use by youth-including traffic crashes, violent crime, burns, drowning, suicide attempts, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisoning and treatment - is more than $68 billion per year. Let’s wake up to the problem and get started on the solution. We cannot afford to wait any longer!

The Bryan County Drug Free Coalition will meet on Monday April 28th 3:30 p.m. at the Richmond Hill Library. For additional information individuals can contact me at 756-3602 or

Jennings is head of Bryan County Family Connection.

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