By JOHN LEWIS
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has designated April as Alcohol Awareness Month. Wood River High School students presented proclamations to our cities and Blaine County recognizing April as Alcohol Awareness Month locally, educating elected officials about the dangers of underage drinking, and promoting successful Drug Coalition programs in our schools.
Alcohol use by young people is extremely dangerous—both to themselves and to our community, directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors. In the U.S. annually, over 6,500 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related accidents and thousands more are injured.
The issue of underage drinking is a complex problem and one that is best solved through a sustained and cooperative effort between parents, schools, community leaders and, most importantly, our youth. There are three areas proven to be effective in prevention of underage drinking; curtailing the availability of alcohol, consistent enforcement of existing laws and regulations, and changing cultural misconceptions and behaviors through education. The Drug Coalition, local law enforcement and local retail establishments have made great strides to decrease availability of alcohol to minors through a successful compliance program. Also, the Drug Coalition’s Idaho Drug Free Youth (iDFY) chapters in our schools boast over 200 young middle school and high school members who have pledged to delay the use of alcohol until they are of age.
talk to your children
about the consequences
of drinking at a young age.
With graduation comes celebration, and parties are indeed an appropriate part of that celebration. During this time, parents are forced to make difficult choices regarding serving alcoholic beverages to minors. This can endanger the lives of the students who consume alcohol and the lives of others. It has serious potential legal consequences for the underage youth that drinks, but only civil liability for the adult host of these parties. In an effort to curb parties with parents or other adults allowing underage drinking, a “social hosting ordinance” will be proposed to the county commissioners in May, with a goal that similar ordinances be enacted in all of our cities. This ordinance would make it illegal to host a party where underage drinking occurs, regardless of who provided the alcohol.
There are several reasons, besides the law, to take underage drinking seriously. It is not enough just to take the keys away from a youth that has been drinking. Many other consequences can occur that have nothing to do with drinking and driving, such as life-changing events like suicide, accidental death, sexual assault, unprotected sex, violent injury and overdoses.
Offering alcohol-free parties and monitoring the youth that attend your party will ensure the safety of our community and will send the message that it is possible to have a good time without alcohol. As always, hard-working parents will put on the Senior Bash following WRHS graduation, an all-night extravaganza, where one sober graduate will drive away in a sweet Saab convertible donated by The Drug Coalition. This event provides a totally safe environment for our youth on a very potentially dangerous night.
Parents, please talk to your children about the consequences of drinking at a young age, while their brains are still developing. Research has found that adolescents who don’t drink until age 21 are 80 percent less likely to abuse alcohol or become alcohol-dependent later in life than those who drink before the age of 15. Young people who get a strong message from their parents that any underage drinking is unacceptable are far less likely to drink before they reach the legal drinking age than those kids who don’t get such a clear message. A recent study by MADD found that youth who receive this clear message from their parents are more than 80 percent less likely to drink than those who receive other messages. In the survey, 8 percent of adolescents who said their parents thought it was completely unacceptable for “someone your age” to drink were active drinkers, compared to 47 percent of those who said their parents thought it was either somewhat unacceptable, or somewhat acceptable.
Let’s work together as a community to substantially decrease underage drinking in Blaine County. The Drug Coalition is a nonprofit with a mission of decreasing substance use by youth in Blaine County. Please consider supporting us to continue our efforts making our community healthier and happier.
Also, mark your calendars for our signature fundraising event, the Sun Valley Road Rally, July 25 and 26. Come out and drive your car as fast as you desire, or watch the Bugattis and Porsches and others travel at speeds up to 230 mph on Highway 75, north of Ketchum. For more information, contact Executive Director Michael David at firstname.lastname@example.org.