As a parent who is active in my children's high school PTSA, I had the opportunity to deliver materials from HC DrugFree to all of the liquor stores in area last month. The materials delivered included wine bags that were printed with messages about not driving drunk, as well as stickers that reminded parents to "Be a Parent, Not a Friend" and avoid giving alcohol to minors. There was also a flier for the stores to post with the same message, as well as an invitation to a Tobacco Compliance Training that HC DrugFree was offering, with the goal of preventing sales of nicotine to minors.
I rarely drink, so I don't go to liquor stores much. Making the deliveries to 12 liquor stores in our area took much of my Saturday afternoon, and wasn't how I wanted to spend my free time. It was a chore. However, I didn't anticipate the feeling of empowerment and satisfaction that participating in this public health campaign gave me. As the parent of two teenagers, it seems like my ability to protect and influence them has waned significantly. They've heard my spiel too many times by now. Just as the risk for their making impulsive, reckless decisions is greatest, my authority fades into the background, eclipsed by that of their peers.
"By eighth grade, 50 percent of children have started drinking, noted University of South Florida psychologist Mark Goldman, PhD, at a Nov. 15, congressional briefing. The consequences can be severe: Each year 5,000 young people under 21 die from alcohol-related injuries, including about 1,600 homicides and 300 suicides, Goldman reported. Other problems include possible adverse effects on the developing brain and a higher risk of physical and sexual assault, unintended sexual activity and poor academic performance. Children who begin drinking by age 13 have a 38 percent higher risk of developing alcohol dependence later in life."
"...the goal should be prevention: changing societal acceptance of underage drinking, delaying the onset of drinking and intervening early when it happens. Successful prevention is more likely when parents and schools cooperate, communicate, monitor and provide alternate activities for kids, she noted."
Making the HC DrugFree deliveries allowed me to do what I can to prevent my teenage kids and their classmates from drinking alcohol. The deliveries were a strong message to the local liquor stores and their customers that we care about our kids, and don't want them to drink. Every time the police check, a percentage of our liquor stores, or their customers, have allowed minors to buy alcohol. This needs to stop.
*The briefing, "Taking Alcohol out of Adolescence: A Developmental Perspective," was sponsored by the Friends of NIAAA, a coalition organized by APA that includes, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, the American Psychiatric Association and the Association for Psychological Science. It was held in conjunction with the U.S. House of Representatives' Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus.