The consequences of underage drinking can be calamitous; each year, 4,700 people under age 21 die from homicides, suicides, car crashes and drowning related to drinking alcohol. Furthermore, underage drinking is a problem shared by all communities. Underage drinking happens, but the good news is it’s also preventable.
According to the Underage Drinking Enforcement Center, underage drinking contributes to a range of costly health and social problems, including traffic fatalities, suicide, physical and sexual assault, brain impairment, alcohol dependence, academic problems, and alcohol and drug poisoning.
During 2009, underage alcohol use contributed to an estimated: 1,506 traffic fatalities and 36,963 nonfatal traffic injuries; 1,844 homicides; 949,400 nonfatal violent crimes such as rape, robbery and assault; 1,811,300 property crimes, including burglary, larceny and car theft; 28,161 teen pregnancies; and 937,972 teens having unprotected sex.
Additionally, there is a financial cost to this issue. Underage drinking cost U.S. citizens an estimated $62 billion in 2010 for related medical care, work loss, and associated pain and suffering.
Talking to youth about substance use and abuse, and being involved in their lives can make a difference:
1. Youth age 12 to 17 who believe their parents would strongly disapprove of their using a substance are less likely to use that substance than are youth who believe their parents would somewhat disapprove or neither approve nor disapprove.
2. Youth age 12 to 17 whose parents always or sometimes engage in monitoring behaviors — like helping with homework — binge drink, use illicit drugs and smoke cigarettes less frequently than those whose parents seldom or never engage in such behaviors.
Every day, parents, caregivers, educators, and community leaders in the Cleveland and Bradley County community can make a difference by having conversations with youth about substance use, and modeling healthy choices. As individuals and a community, we can help prevent underage drinking by being involved in young people’s lives; identifying resources, support systems, and alternatives for youth in the community; and raising awareness about the importance of prevention.
What can we do to prevent or reduce underage drinking in our community? By working together, we can make a difference in the lives of our young people, by reaching out and starting the conversation. We must be a parent, not a peer, when it comes to discussing issues such as underage drinking with our children.
The GRAAB Coalition is offering educational programs to help parents identify when their child may be abusing alcohol, and how to address these issues with them, with a goal of ultimately seeking help if needed.
For parents or caregivers interested in these classes, contact the GRAAB Coalition for dates and times. For information on other GRAAB programming or volunteer opportunities available, call us at 423-472-5800 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit our website for regular updates as well, www.graabcoal-ition.com.
The mission of the GRAAB Coalition is to bring together concerned members and service providers of the community to facilitate lowering the misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, as well as other addictive behaviors, in Bradley County, by providing effective education, recovery, and support for youth, families and the community.
(About the writer: Tanya Southerland is the executive director of Going Respectively Against Abusive Behaviors, a nonprofit organization in Cleveland and Bradley County that combats alcohol and drug abuse in this community. The organization is known by most as the GRAAB Coalition. In observation of National Prevention Week 2014, she is providing a series of guest “Viewpoints” on behalf of the GRAAB Coalition.)