National Safety Month reminds parents to curb underage drinking


June marks the start of the summer, and it’s also National Safety Month. Many summer tragedies could be avoided by preventing underage drinking. Parents and family members of teenagers can help prevent underage drinking in a number of ways. Some such ways include planning safe, alcohol-free activities in advance, avoiding alcoholic beverage service at parties with minors and not purchasing alcohol for minors.

Social host liability laws

Many families enjoy outdoor barbecue parties together, and alcoholic beverages are often served. Recently, private party hosts have come under scrutiny for serving or facilitating alcohol to minors through social host liability laws. Although such laws pertain to all guests at a private party, there are particular responsibilities when the guest is a minor. How these laws affect alcohol use was the focus of a recent study.

Published June 1, 2015, in Pediatrics, the study was conducted by Timothy Naimi, M.D., and his colleagues to establish a relationship between alcohol accessibility laws and teen alcohol use. Law severity across the 50 states was combined with survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on high school students in grades 9 to 12 between 1999 and 2011.

The researchers found that stronger alcohol policies, even when aimed toward adults, appeared to reduce reported alcohol consumption by youth. The authors concluded that holding adults accountable for youth drinking was an effective approach to reducing underage drinking. They also suggested future research be geared toward population subgroups and discrete policies.

Summer safety

Stricter underage drinking laws are continually explored. However, the best solution to underage drinking is a good example in the home. Rules of thumb include: not allowing underage drinking in your home, not drinking and driving, talking to kids about the dangers of drinking and driving, reminding them about the dangers of underage drinking and setting a good example.

Adolescents listen when their parents speak to them, although it might not always seem that way. Teenagers are also likely to communicate openly with their parents if they feel it is safe to be honest without repercussions.

Avoid the consequences

Substance use problems in teenagers have become an epidemic among adolescents and young adults ages 12 to 29, according to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Behavior problems, overdose, suicide, and accidents are merely a few consequences of underage drinking. Getting help promptly is crucial, particularly for adolescents. It appears that the adolescent brain, not fully developed until ages 22 to 24, is more vulnerable to the damaging effects of drugs and alcohol.

Besides brain damage, alcohol puts teens at risk for other dangers as well. Motor vehicle crashes, violent assaults and accidental overdoses can also result from underage drinking. In addition, more teens try alcohol or drugs for the first time in the summer than at any other time of the year.

Warning signs

Signs and symptoms of alcohol use among adolescents include staying out late, becoming withdrawn, inappetence, poor sleep habits, missing money and other behavior changes. Usually every member of the family feels that something is wrong, although it might or might not yet have been discussed openly. With underage drinking, prompt identification and treatment of any alcohol or drug use is critical for the best outcome.

Getting help

Alcohol and substance abuse is a family disease and every member is affected. White River Academy provides a foundation for families to reunite and begin the healing process in a program that provides a second chance for struggling teens and their families. If you or a loved one is underage and drinking, brain damage and other tragedies can still be minimized. For more information, call 866-520-0905.

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