Teen Drinking: the Facts, the Risks, and Potential Solutions

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1 Teen Drinking: the Facts, the Risks, and Potential Solutions A Presentation for Parents Based on information provided by the Maine Office of Substance Abuse, May 2003 (A new slide appears every 10 seconds)

2 Our Purpose Provide information and tips for preventing teen alcohol use Open the lines of communication among parents Identify ways that parents and law enforcement can support each other Ultimate goal: Prevent kids from engaging in high-risk behavior 2

3 Ground Rules Keep an open mind there are lots of misperceptions and false assumptions that have been widely accepted as true Remember - we all have different experiences with alcohol that color our values and beliefs (family history, past experience, etc.) Avoid casting blame there are lots of ways to be good parents Find common ground what can we agree on, how can we avoid mixed messages? This isn t about good kids or bad kids it is about high-risk choices that are often encouraged by the environment that surrounds all our kids 3

4 Maine Office of Substance Abuse Parent Campaign: Do You Really Know? Research conducted by the Office of Substance Abuse in 2002: Student survey with 8-12 th graders Random phone survey of parents of 8-12 th graders Results show wide disparities between what teens say they are doing and what parents believe their kids are doing Source: MYDAUS 2002 and Ethos/Pan Atlantic Parent Survey,

5 Do you really know? 70% 60% 50% 65% 40% 30% 38% 20% 10% 0% 17% Lifetime use (more than a few sips) 2% Drinking in the past month 20% 0.50% Binge drinking (5+ in a row) in the past 2 weeks Teens who reported this behavior Parents who reported that their teen engaged in this behavior 5

6 What do most parents think about teen alcohol use? 100% 95% 90% 99% 96% 85% 80% 83% 75% Parents who said they are "very concerned" about teen drinking Parents who said it is "very inappropriate" for a 14 year old to drink with no adult supervision Parents who said it is "very inappropriate" for a 17 year old to drink with no adult supervision 6

7 Which strategies do most parents support to reduce underage drinking? 90% 80% 70% 60% 75% 81% 68% 50% 40% 52% 30% 20% 10% 0% Strengthen enforcement of existing underage drinking laws Strengthen enforcement of laws that ban supplying alcohol to minors Source: Office of Substance Abuse, HZA Parent Survey, June 2002 Create stronger laws to address underage drinking Regulate advertising to make drinking less appealing to youth 7

8 Why is underage drinking a problem? Kids who begin drinking by age 15 are 4x more likely to develop alcohol abuse/dependence than those who wait until age 21- the risk drops for every year that initial alcohol use is delayed (40% risk before age 15, 10% risk after age 21) With as little as one drink, alcohol impairs normal brain function in adolescents more than adults; each episode of heavy drinking among adolescents and young adults can result in impaired learning/ memory function for up to 2 weeks Note: sources for this information are available on the Medical Impact page of the Office of Substance Abuse Parent Kit 8

9 Why is underage drinking a problem? Alcohol-related traffic crashes are the leading cause of death and disability among teenagers Alcohol is a major factor in all of the other leading causes of death and injury among teenagers homicide, suicide, burns, drownings, and falls Alcohol use has been strongly linked to depression, sexually transmitted diseases, and date rape and other criminal behavior (both as perpetrator and as victim) Note: sources for this information are available on the Medical Impact page of the Office of Substance Abuse Parent Kit 9

10 The minimum legal drinking age is effective It works Many studies have found that drinking among year olds increased with the lowered drinking age and decreased when the drinking age was raised to 21. The latest review of all the research available concludes: The preponderance of the evidence suggests that higher legal drinking ages reduce alcohol consumption The majority of studies on the relationship between the drinking age and traffic crashes found that traffic crashes increased significantly with the lowered drinking age and decreased significantly when the drinking age was raised to 21. Source: Wagenaar A. and Toomey, T. Effects of the Minimum Drinking Age Laws: Review and Analyses of the Literature from 1960 to Journal of Studies on Alcohol (Supplement No. 14):

11 The minimum legal drinking age is effective The European Myth: some people claim that the U.S. would not have such problems with youth drinking if we lowered our drinking age like the European countries -Recent research shows that in a majority of European countries, a greater percentage of year olds report drinking to excess (5+ drinks in a row) than U.S year olds -About half of the European countries have intoxication rates among yr olds that are greater than in the U.S. (1/4 are about the same, and1/4 are lower) -Many factors influence drinking patterns across Europe and the U.S., including government policies, tax rates, retail availability, religious/cultural values, advertising practices, and social acceptability of intoxication. Source: US Dept of Justice, Comparison of Drinking Rates and Problems: European Countries and the United States,

12 Laws You and Your Teen Should Know Illegal Possession (exceptions: in the scope of employment or in a private home in the presence of the minor s parent/ guardian) Illegal Transportation Teen OUI (Zero Tolerance) Criminal OUI (.08 per se) Refusal to be tested for blood alcohol content Furnishing Liquor to a Minor Felony provision if death or serious bodily injury results Allowing Minors to Consume in a Place Under Your Control Maine Liquor Liability Act (up to $250,000 plus medical expenses) 12

13 The residual impact of an underage drinking violation goes beyond the fines For example If over 18, they will have a permanent record (even juvenile records can have an impact, i.e. for security clearance for future military jobs) Criminal offenses can impede future job opportunities and college applications Transportation offenses can result in car insurance rate increases as well as suspension of a driver s license False identification offenses can result in suspension of a driver s license Furnishing offenses can result in jail time, particularly repeat offenses 13

14 What you can do at home Talk with your teen Regularly, not once a year at prom time Set the rules clearly and provide consequences Explain why you want them to delay alcohol use Expect them to avoid risky situations and unsupervised parties Give them an excuse to resist peer pressure by blaming their refusal on you 14

15 What you can do at home Monitor your Teen Ask questions before and after social events Get to know your child s friends and the parents of their friends Occasionally check to see that they are where they say and watch for signs of drinking when they return Teach them how to have fun without drinking 15

16 What you can do at home Signs to watch for Unfortunately, by the time a pattern of changes is visible, a serious problem may already exist - the best way to catch problems early is to monitor carefully all the time Changes in friends Decline in school performance Losing interest in activities that used to be fun or important Poor concentration Please note: these may also be signs of depression, suicidal ideation or other mental illness. More information on signs of a substance abuse problem is available in the OSA Parent Kit. 16

17 What you can do at home Self-assessment: Are you sending mixed messages? Be a good role model: if you drink in front of your children, do so within the low-risk guidelines (no more than 1-2 drinks daily or 4 on any occasion) Avoid telling funny drinking stories or glorifying alcohol use in front of your children; don t laugh about other people s high-risk drinking Be careful not to communicate an assumption that alcohol is necessary to have fun Don t assume teen drinking is an unavoidable rite of passage if you expect your teen to drink, they probably will 17

18 What we can do as a community Communicate with other parents Get involved with a local coalition working on substance abuse or other youth issues Establish a parent pledge or network of parents who will promise not to provide alcohol to youth and who will ensure that any youth gatherings at their homes will be supervised and chem-free 18

19 What we can do as a community Watch for irresponsible merchants and confront them if they are not carding, are observed selling to minors, or market alcohol in a way that appeals to youth Praise responsible merchants say thank you when you observe a clerk carding young people and refusing sales Support the efforts of school administrators to enforce school alcohol policies Ensure that there are plenty of chem-free fun social opportunities for youth to enjoy 19

20 A few other thoughts Kids want and need parents to set clear boundaries and rules. Adolescence is developmentally a time of testing the limits if the limits aren t clear, they may need to keep testing them to discover where they are. Peer pressure among parents can sometimes be just as bad or worse than among kids (and may be based on false assumptions that other parents are more permissive than they really are). Some parents think it is acceptable to host a drinking party and take away the keys in order to keep kids safe while it is clearly important to keep drinking teens off the road, kids say this sends them a mixed message. Consider both the legal issues and the long-term consequences of one-night solutions that focus on temporarily preventing only one type of harm that results from teen drinking. 20

21 Ways you can help support law enforcement efforts to reduce underage/high-risk drinking Call to report parties in advance if you suspect they will be unsupervised or alcohol present (this makes it possible to speak with the homeowner before the party) Report observations of sales to minors by local stores Avoid implying to kids that it is okay to break the law as long as you don t get caught Contact state/local policymakers to let them know you support efforts to reduce underage drinking and that you want to see the law enforced 21

22 Other Resources Maine Parent s Kit: or call Maine Office of Substance Abuse Information and Resource Center: (or call number above) Mainely Parents: or call Local Contacts 22

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