Health professionals also urge parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of underage drinking.
Frederick, Md (KM) The Frederick County Health Department is joining other health professionals locally and around the country to raise awareness about alcohol use, especially among teenagers.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. “The purpose of Alcohol Awareness Month is increase public awareness and understanding on alcohol-related issues, including underage drinking and the impact that has on our youth,” says Laura Lamotte, Prevention Coordinator for the county Health Department.
The Health Department says one-third of local high schools students reported having at least one drink of alcohol on one or more occasions in the past 30 days; and one in six students reported binge drinking, which is five or more drinks within a couple of hours. Those statistics come from the 2014 Youth Risk Behavior Report.
Lamotte says underage drinking has a negative impact on young people. “Alcohol use by youth can cause changes in the structure and the function of the developing brain. And some consequences of underage drinking can include academic, social and legal problems. It can also lead to unintentional injuries or accidents,” she says.
This year’s theme for Alcohol Awareness Month is “Connecting the Dots: Opportunities for Recovery.,” which highlights the role of parents in preventing the consumption of alcoholic beverages by young people. Lamotte says research shows that kids who learn about the dangers of underage drinking from their parents are 50% less likely to experiment with alcohol than young people who don’t
But Lamotte says trying to get the message out about underage drinking and its pitfalls across to youth is not easy, especially as teenagers are exposed to other messages which say drinking booze is part of the good life. “There’s influence by the media, social media and peer pressure, and sometimes that seem more powerful than any parental influence. But that’s why it’s really important for parents and care-givers to have the conversations with their kids about alcohol, and talk about the negative consequences associated with underage drinking,” she says. “To really stress it’s important to talk early with their kids and to talk often.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has resources to help start and continue the conversation. They can be found at www.samhas.gov/underage-drinking.
By Kevin McManus