If you are reading this story, you probably already are aware of the devastating affects alcoholism has on the lives of its victims and the people who love them. But are you aware of the specific dangers associated with drinking among young people in our country?
Alcohol is especially damaging to the developing adolescent brain and numerous studies have shown that people who start drinking as teenagers are more likely to develop alcohol problems as adults.
This year's Alcohol Awareness Month theme, “Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow,” shines a light on the many ways our community can make positive changes to get this message out to young people.
How can you help? Here are some suggestions. For more, visit http://www.drugabuse.gov/.
Parents and adults:
- Set clear rules about alcohol and enforce consequences. Explain the health and safety risks about alcohol use in teens and young adults: effects on brain development, increased chance of addiction, injuries and death.
- Use teachable moments in movies or TV shows to educate young people about health and social risks of alcohol.
- Consider locking up or disposing of the unused or leftover alcohol in your home.
- f you don't drink, you may want to share the reasons you don't with teens and young adults without using scare tactics or bragging. Saying “I don't like the way it affected me” is more helpful than, “When I was your age, I could drink anyone under the table.”
- If you drink, model responsible alcohol use in front of children, teens and young adults. Using alcohol to relieve stress, or to the point of intoxication, sends a message that alcohol is a good way to relax or have fun.
- When selling or serving alcohol, always check for proper identification and never serve or sell to anyone who is intoxicated.
- Design or set up your store so alcohol is not located near exits.
- Limit alcohol advertisements on storefronts and in stores, especially those that appeal to youth and are at their eye level.
- Use security measures such as cameras and/or locking bottle caps.
- Keep alcohol in view of clerks and other employees to prevent theft.
- Consider alcohol-free fundraising events, especially if you are a school or youth organization.
- Adopt policies to make your event more family friendly such as alcohol-free seating areas. Better yet, have a contained drinking area such as a beer or wine garden to prevent problems.
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol images and words in advertising and promotional materials.
- If your group does serve alcohol, make sure they are trained in responsible beverage service.
Teachers, coaches and booster clubs:
- Avoid using alcohol to raise money for youth sports or recreation programs. It sends the message that it's OK to drink for a good cause and the more people drink, the more money will be raised.
- Teach students and athletes about the health effects of alcohol; how it affects muscle memory, metabolism, endurance, hydration, learning and memory and can outweigh the positive health benefits of training. Alcohol is used by athletes at parties to haze team members, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Health care providers:
- Improve screening for alcohol and other drug use disorders in all patients.
- Make sure children, teens and parents have access to current and accurate information about alcohol and other drugs.
- Be prepared to refer parents and teens to appropriate resources such as local support groups, treatment providers and programs.