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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Youth need to be educated about the effects of alcohol and prepared to make tough choices

In 2010, underage drinking cost people in New Hampshire $209 million.

This exorbitant cost comes as no surprise, since New Hampshire ranks second-highest in the nation for alcohol use among 12- to 20-year-olds. The ranking is the same for binge drinking (having five or more drinks within a couple of hours) among 12- to 20-year-olds, according to the 2012 National Survey for Drug Use and Health. ...

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In 2010, underage drinking cost people in New Hampshire $209 million.

This exorbitant cost comes as no surprise, since New Hampshire ranks second-highest in the nation for alcohol use among 12- to 20-year-olds. The ranking is the same for binge drinking (having five or more drinks within a couple of hours) among 12- to 20-year-olds, according to the 2012 National Survey for Drug Use and Health.

Why is this? Does it have something to do with the marketing of fruity liquors that entice the younger population, peer pressure, accessibility to alcohol and/or lack of parental involvement, societal acceptance? Is underage drinking considered a “rite of passage”? If it is, what is it a passage to? Is it the passage to unwanted or risky sex, reduced academic performance, youth violence, suicide, car crashes and addiction?

Studies indicate that one of the most significant determinants of addiction is the age of onset. Adolescence is a unique stage of brain development that is particularly sensitive to the disrupting effects of alcohol, and studies suggest that alcohol exposure during adolescence can have long-lasting effects and may interfere with normal brain functioning during adulthood, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The 2011 CASA Columbia report indicates that adolescent substance use is America’s No. 1 public health problem. Use of addictive substances during adolescence interferes with brain development, reduces academic performance and increases the risk of accidents, homicides, suicides and serious health conditions, including addiction.

Here are the results of the New Hampshire 2013 Youth Risk & Behavior Survey for high school students in grades 9-12:

61.4 percent had at least one drink of alcohol on one or more days in their life.

11.9 percent had their first drink of alcohol, other than a few sips, before age 13.

32.9 percent had at least one drink of alcohol on one or more occasion in the past 30 days.

17.3 percent had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row (binge drinking) in the past 30 days.

4.2 percent had at least one drink of alcohol on school property in the past 30 days.

Females consistently had higher use rates than males, and there is a direct association between alcohol use and suicide for both genders.

These are critical risk factors for youths.

Another issue that should be considered is that youths typically do not drink the way adults do. Youths tend to binge drink, play drinking games and guzzle the alcohol they drink, simply because their goal is to get drunk. This has the potential to be quite dangerous and frequently results in alcohol poisoning and sometimes death.

The science of brain development supports the magnitude of the problems associated with underage drinking, and New Hampshire residents need to recognize this. There is little doubt that this is an age-old issue; however, there needs to be a continuous shift in the culture of expectation relative to underage drinking. The surgeon general’s Call to Action says, “It’s time to change how we think, talk and act when it comes to underage drinking. We need to stop accepting it, to start discouraging it. It’s time to help young people understand that it is not OK for them to drink alcohol.”

The prevention coalitions in New Hampshire believe we can reduce these alarming statistics by arming youths with the skills to combat these types of problems.

We need to teach them to prepare for being confronted with difficult choices in life, and we need to reduce the stigma associated with treatment and recovery.

Visit www.drugfreenh.org for additional information and resources to engage in these activities.

In Nashua, the Nashua Prevention Coalition and Community Action for Safe Teens have active campaigns to reduce alcohol and other drug use. To find out what you can do to help, you can contact me at
npccoordinator@united
waynashua.org or project director Janet Valuk at npc
director@unitedway
nashua.org.

Raising awareness is one of the first steps that we can take in the prevention campaign, and we applaud the efforts of The Telegraph in providing the monthly series “Addiction Epidemic: Prevention.”

Visit www.checkthestats
nh.org
for more data on drug and alcohol use for New Hampshire teens and tips on how you can have open and honest conversations with your kids about the dangers of alcohol use and abuse.

Monica Gallant is coordinator for Nashua Prevention Coalition and Community Action for Safe Teens.