Underage drinking a complex problem

April has been designated as Alcohol Awareness Month by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Hundreds of communities across the country will participate in this grassroots effort to highlight the dangers of underage drinking and identify workable solutions.

Alcohol use by young people is extremely dangerous – both to themselves and to society, and is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors. Annually, over 6,500 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related accidents and thousands more are injured.

The issue of underage drinking is a complex problem and one that is best solved through a sustained and cooperative effort between parents, schools, community leaders and America’s youth. There are three areas which have proven to be effective in prevention of underage drinking; curtailing the availability of alcohol, consistent enforcement of existing laws and regulations, and changing cultural misconceptions and behaviors through education.

With graduation comes celebration and parties are indeed an appropriate part of that celebration. During this time, parents are forced to make difficult choices regarding serving alcoholic beverages to minors. This can endanger the lives of the students who consume alcohol and the lives of others. It has serious potential legal consequences for the underage youth that drinks and the person that provides the alcohol for them. There are several reasons, besides the law, to take underage drinking seriously. It is not enough just to take the keys away from a youth that has been drinking. Many other consequences can occur that have nothing to do with drinking and driving. Suicide, accidental death, drowning, violent injury and alcohol overdoses, which can often result in life-changing accidents, are also serious consequences that can occur. Offering alcohol free graduation parties and monitoring the youth that attend your party will ensure the safety of our community and will send the message that it is possible to have a good time without alcohol.

For more information about alcohol or drug related issues, call the Drug and alcohol prevention staff of Public Health: Delta and Menominee Counties at 906-753-4240 or 906-786-4111.