by Gina DeMent, Public Information Officer
Five County Mental Health Authority
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has designated April as Alcohol Awareness Month.Â
Alcohol Awareness Month began in 1987 in an effort to reach the American public with information about the disease of alcoholism – that it is a treatable disease and that alcoholics are capable of recovery.
Alcohol Awareness is a campaign that attempts to raise the public’s awareness regarding issues related to alcohol use and abuse. This year during Alcohol Awareness Month, our community is focusing on underage drinking. Though it remains the number-one drug problem among youth, alcohol is often overlooked in the nation’s efforts to prevent use of tobacco and illicit drugs in this population.
In conjunction with the alcohol awareness month, one weekend in April is designated as an alcohol-free weekend. During those three days, we ask parents and other adults to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages for a 72-hour period to demonstrate to young people that alcohol isn’t necessary to have a good time.
Underage drinking poses a number of immediate and long-term threats to our future generation. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), alcohol is the most significant contributor to the three leading causes of death among adolescents – automobile crashes, homicides and suicides. Early exposure to alcohol can also affect individuals once they have reached adulthood — increasing their chances of habitually binge drinking, or becoming addicted to alcohol or illegal drugs. Scientific evidence shows that the earlier children begin drinking, the more likely they are to develop serious alcohol problems in their lifetime. Put simply, our nation can no longer ignore alcohol use by children.
Once kids start drinking, their world suddenly becomes a more dangerous place. There are many connections between risky behaviors and drinking. Some of these include unwanted and unprotected sexual activity, which can result in pregnancy, and the likelihood of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes or HIV. Often boys tend to become more aggressive under the influence of alcohol, resulting in fights, vandalism and high-risk driving behaviors. More teenage suicides happen while youths are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
The extent of alcohol consumption by children ages 9 to 15 is startling; preventing it must become a national priority. Consider these facts:
Due to heavy or binge drinking, nearly one out of every five teenagers (16%) has experienced “black outs,” after which they could not remember what happened the previous evening.
During April, talk to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking and take the opportunity to stop drinking and model healthy habits. Experts say the number one deterrent to underage drinking is having parents who talk to their teens about the dangers. Alcohol is the number one drug of choice among the nation’s youth and it can have serious, often lifelong, consequences for them, their families and their communities.
Five County Mental Health Authority will participate in Alcohol awareness Month by highlighting the health risk associated with problem drinking and the importance of identification and intervention.Â FCMHA offers free alcohol screenings to groups and business.Â If you would like more information please contact Gina DeMent at 252.430.3031.Â If you would like more information on the consequences of underage drinking, how to talk to your children about alcohol, recognizing signs of a problem, or local support group information, contact Prevention Specialist Anne Williams at Five County Mental Health at 252.430.3077. Anne is also available to present a short program on preventing underage alcohol use called “Too Smart To Start” and a parenting program called “Parent To Parent”, which is a video-based workshop designed to help young people avoid drug and alcohol problems by training their parents in the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to guide their children through these high risk years. Call Anne Williams for more details or to see when a class will begin in your county.