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by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.

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This article was printed from Teachers.Net Gazette,
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Stop Underage Drinking

One of the most common stories I hear among my kids' college friends, no matter what school they attend, is that alcohol is available everywhere, despite the fact that most students are not of legal drinking age until their senior year. It's so bad, that some students are even beginning to complain about it. The daughter of a friend of mine moved back home after her first year in college, because there was so much drinking, noise and partying in the dorms that she couldn't study.

But the abuse of alcohol doesn't begin in college. The Connecticut Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking has learned from interviewing and polling young people that:

  • Most young people in Connecticut take their first drink between the ages of 11 and 13.

  • Almost 10% of Connecticut's high school students are intoxicated between 3 and 5 times a month.

  • Over 60% of high school juniors and seniors drink regularly.

  • Suburban alcohol use rates are higher than urban use rates.

  • Half of all unintended teen pregnancies result from one or both parties being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • 68% of college students have driven while under the influence of alcohol, while only 4% had been arrested for DUI.

    I doubt that Connecticut is the only state with such statistics.

    Alcohol abuse in the US has reached epidemic proportions. As the adults responsible for the wellbeing of our children, we need to take steps to prevent alcohol use and abuse by boys and girls under 21. A broad-based approach is needed. Please read the ideas presented below and select those that you could carry out in your family, neighborhood or school.

    • Put pressure on college administrators to ban alcohol from college campuses.
    • Enforce the legal drinking age. In order to avoid the embarrassment of public exposure, parents and school administrators sometimes agree to cover up incidents of alcohol abuse, rather than requiring the young person to appear with his or her parents in court and pay the consequences (fines and community service) for breaking underage drinking laws.
    • Refrain from drinking alcohol during family gatherings where children might witness alcohol abuse among parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and other adults whom they know, trust and love -- and emulate. Whenever children are present, how about making family parties and gatherings alcohol-free?
    • If there are young people under age 21 living with you, keep the alcohol locked up.
    • Educate young people about the dangers of alcohol abuse. Teach them how to resist peer pressure. The daughter of one of my friends went to a high school party with her boyfriend one weekend. They were both 16 years old. There was alcohol at the party and both of them drank too much. Rather than calling home for someone to pick them up, they got into a car and attempted to drive home. The boy was driving, lost control of the car and hit a tree. The girl wasn't injured, but the boy sustained injury to his spine and was paralyzed permanently from the waist down. This boy had been an all-star athlete and was very popular among his peers. It was a sobering lesson that had a huge impact on the whole school. What a very sad way for teens to learn such an important lesson!
    • Restrict companies that make and sell alcohol from marketing and advertising their products to youth.
    • Establish sanctions against merchants who sell alcohol to people under 21 and enforce those sanctions.
    • Vote against any reduction in the legal drinking age.
    The Connecticut Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking reports the following research findings:

    Children who start drinking before the age of 15 are three times as likely to develop alcoholism during adulthood as those who wait until the age of 21 to drink. And, children who get consistent no-use messages from their parents or other caring adults are three to four times less likely to abuse substances.

    Beth Bruno - Insights, the Luckiest Spot on the Internet

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