Underage drinking: Cause for concern


By Raymond L. Daye
It seems like harmless fun and nothing to be particularly concerned about. So your 12-year-old son and his pals took one of your six-packs and had a little party in the shed. No big deal; no harm done, right?
Wrong. It is something to be concerned about. 
April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, which focuses on raising public knowledge, understanding and awareness of alcoholism and its effects on individuals, families and communities. The important issue of underage drinking is a part of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) annual observance of Alcohol Awareness Month.
Throughout April,  there were local, state and national events to inform people on the treatment for -- and, more importantly, prevention of -- alcohol-related issues. 
Maj. Steve Martel, chief deputy with the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office, said it is important that parents be aware of their children’s actions and of the dangers in society.
“For example, they have developed powdered alcohol,” Martel said. “They are snorting this as a powder.”
“It all comes back to parenting,” he said. “Parents have to be alert and involved.”
Chauncey Hardy, director of Prevention Services for the Central Louisiana Human Services District, said there are more festivals in Louisiana -- particularly South Louisiana -- than anywhere else in the nation. That is one thing that makes Louisiana a good place to live.
However, he said, “drink is a big part of that. Young people see this and they think it is okay, that it’s normal, that drinking is what we do. The fact of the matter is, to a large extent we ‘normalize’ drinking.”
Hardy said parents have a right to be concerned about their children’s exposure to excessive drinking in public events, “but unfortunately, they may not realize that alcoholism may start right there in the home, in their own pantries.”
Hardy, who graduated from Marksville High, recalls a time when someone bought him and his group of friends a large beer “and we drank it on the way to school.”
Hardy said that many things in Marksville have changed, but he is willing to bet there are still adults who see nothing wrong with letting some young boys have a beer or two.
“Boys will be boys, right,” he said sarcastically. “That is the kind of attitude that was in town when I was there.”
He said parents and adults “must have a clear no-use message when it comes to underage drinking. Parents need to express their expectations for their children and point out the dangers of alcohol use at that age.”
Hardy said he thinks back on his teen years and wonders how he survived.
“When you are 15 or 16, you are prone to do stupid things anyway,” Hardy said. “When you add alcohol to that, which further inhibits judgment, it is a potentially dangerous situation.”
Oh, and about that beer on the way to school -- Hardy said he ended up making a “B” on his final test because the teacher wouldn’t let him go to the restroom until he finished his exam.
“I left one whole page blank, because I really had to go to the bathroom,“ he said with a laugh.
We began this article about whether you should be concerned about that little beer bash in the shed. NCADD provides these reasons why you should be.
Reasons for concern
* By the time they are 10-years-old, approximately  10 percent of America’s children have already started drinking alcoholic beverages. That increases to about one-third by the age of 13.
* Underage drinking is a leading cause of death from injuries, which is the main cause of death for people under the age of 21. Approximately 5,000 Americans under 21 die from alcohol-related injuries each year.
* Underage drinking places a young person at  significantly greater risk for becoming a “heavy drinker” as an adult. * Continued alcohol abuse causes significant consequences and medical problems. Consequences can range from things such as a drop in grades in school -- which is serious enough -- to traffic fatalities, suicide and death by overdose/alcohol poisoning.
Underage drinking also makes the youth more susceptible to making “bad choices,” that can lead to criminal behavior and incarceration, pregnancy and life-changing diseases.
On a more positive note, there are things that can be done to make a difference. Research shows that children who learn about the dangers of underage drinking from their parents are up to 50% less likely to experiment with alcohol and drugs than kids who don’t have the benefit of that parental concern and involvement. 
Sobering statistics
NCADD also notes these sobering statistics in its campaign:
* More than seven million children live in a household with at least one parent who is dependent on or abuses alcohol.
* A typical American will watch 100,000 beer commercials before their 18th birthday.
* An estimated 17.6 million Americans suffer from alcohol abuse and/or dependence. 
* 100,000 deaths a year are alcohol-related -- including drinking/driving accidents, falls/other accidents, fires, alcohol-related homicides and suicides.
* Alcohol-related problems cost America $224 billion a year -- about $746 per person -- in lost productivity, absenteeism, healthcare costs, crime and family-related problems.
NCADD President Andrew Pucher said underage drinking “is a complex issue -- one that can only be solved through a sustained and cooperative effort. As a nation, we need to wake up to the reality that for some, alcoholism and addiction develop at a young age and that intervention, treatment and recovery support are essential for them and their families.
“We can’t afford to wait any longer.”


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Marksville, LA 71351
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