For the 26th year, April is being recognized as Alcohol Awareness Month. This year’s theme is “Healthy Choices, Healthy Communities: Prevent Underage Drinking”. The focus is on increasing public awareness and understanding of the public health issue of underage drinking. The use of alcohol by young people has some startling facts:
- Alcohol is the number one drug of choice for America’s young people, more than tobacco or illicit drugs;
- Those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at age 21;
- Each day, 7,000 kids in the United States under the age of 16 take their first drink.
- Underage alcohol use costs the nation an estimated $62 billion annually!
(NCADD; Media Release; 3/2012)
Parents and other adults can help to reduce the problem of underage drinking. Here are some ways:
- Talk to young people. Without lecturing, explain the facts. Tell them that you don’t want them to drink alcohol before they turn 21.
- Listen to young people. Ask questions. Don’t overreact when they tell you about what they are thinking or their peers are doing; be willing to hear about the tremendous peer pressure that they are under to drink alcohol.
- Get involved. Know their friends. Know what they are doing and where they are.
- Don’t keep secrets. If you know that kids are drinking, enlist the help of other adults, the school, and the community to stop it from happening again.
And finally, set a good example. Young people watch adults to see if their behavior matches their message. Drink alcohol in moderation or abstain from alcohol use. They will notice.