Written by: Carrie Kubacki, Interim Family Living Educator, Langlade County UW-Extension
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and the focus of 2018 from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) is on youth prevention. Studies have shown that alcohol and drug use by youth are serious concerns and increases risk taking and impulsive behaviors. These actions can result in dangers to youth themselves and to society, including an increase in violence, traffic accidents, educational failure, unsafe sex, suicide and other problems.
The following statistics from NCADD show some of these significant concerns:
- More than 50% of young people, ages 12-20, have used alcohol at least once.
- For young people ages 15-20, alcohol is implicated in more than a third of driver fatalities and two-fifths of drownings.
- Young people who start drinking alcohol before age 14 were six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who started at age 21 or older.
- Of adults who have an alcohol or drug addiction, 90% first started using before age 18, and 50% before age 15.
Adults may often excuse underage drinking as a “rite of passage.” They may believe it is something most youth will go through—maybe due to their own experiences or their own values. However, youth alcohol and drug use are not issues that parents and other adult caregivers should ignore, deny or hope will go away. Studies show that kids who have conversations with their parents about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50 percent less likely to use substances.
It is never too early to begin the conversation about alcohol and drug use with children. The more information our children have, the more likely they will be to make healthy decisions. This is part of our roles and responsibilities as adults. Here are a few tips to start the discussion with youth:
- Listen before your talk, and encourage conversation. Adults tend to think they “have all the answers;” however, taking time to listen to a youth’s point of view can help to build connections and trust.
- Be involved with your child’s daily life. Get to know who their friends are and activities in which they regularly participate.
- Set expectations, limits and consequences for behaviors, including alcohol and other drug use. Make sure you can follow through with the decisions that are made.
- Be positive with youth about their future. Focus on positive goals and healthy decisions your child is already making and show your support for their actions.
By recognizing the dangers of youth alcohol and other drug use and by having open and honest conversations with our youth, we can help to prevent future substance use problems and positively impact their future. For more information about this topic, please visit www.ncadd.org.