Alcohol Awareness Month focuses on underage drinking

Michelle Padgett
Drug Demand Reduction Program

April is national Alcohol Awareness Month, and this year’s observance focuses on underage drinking.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, alcohol is the drug most frequently used by high school seniors, and its use is increasing.
Boys usually try alcohol for the first time at 11 years old, while the average age for American girls’ first drink is 13. Underage drinking is also a factor in nearly half of all teen automobile crashes and contributes to youth suicides, homicides and fatal injuries, each year.
Additionally, according to the NCADD alcohol abuse is linked to as many as two-thirds of all sexual assaults and date rapes of teens and college students and is a major factor in unprotected sex among youth, increasing their risk of contracting Human Immunodeficiency Virus or other sexually transmitted diseases.
Many times, however, high school students lack essential knowledge about alcohol and its effects, said Linda Kelly, adolescent substance abuse counseling service counselor, Ramstein American Middle School.
Nationwide, an estimated 5.6 million junior and senior high school students are unsure of the legal age to purchase alcohol, according to the NCADD.
An average of 33 percent do not understand the intoxicating effects of alcohol and more than 2.6 million do not know that a person can die from an overdose of alcohol, said Ms. Kelly.
Amazingly, the typical American young person will see 100,000 beer commercials before he or she turns 18, which is more than for sneakers, gum and jeans.
While the issue of underage drinking is a complex problem, it is one that can only be solved through a sustained and cooperative effort between parents, schools, community leaders and children themselves, said Ms. Kelly.
The following are three areas, which have proven to be effective in the prevention of underage drinking:
• Curtailing the availability of alcohol
• Consistently enforcement of existing alcohol laws and regulations
• Changing cultural misconceptions and behaviors through education
• Resources available in the KMC include but are not limited to the Adolescent Substance Abuse Counseling Service in selected Department of Defense Dependent Schools, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program and the local Drug Demand Reduction Office.
Community effort to focus on the critical public health issue of underage drinking can not only aid in the problem, but it can also save lives.