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Press Release: October 15th, 2010 NCPC Article 4/5

For Immediate Release: Resources to Prevent and Combat Underage Drinking For Parents and Teens! Be a Part of the Solution during National Crime Prevention Month!

Amite, LA – Underage drinking has become widespread problem in all of our communities. Alcohol is the number one drug of choice among our teenagers and young adults and alcohol related car crashes have become the number one killer of teenagers in the United States. It is tragic to say, but true, that most of us know someone or know of someone personally that has died or been killed due to their own alcohol abuse or due to the alcohol abuse of someone else. Over the years, I personally have lost family and friends due to alcohol related driving incidents and have had to experience the pain and loss of those loved ones. This loss is tragic, senseless, painful, and life-changing to those left behind - especially when it is the loss of a young person.

So what can we do to save our youth from the dangers of alcohol abuse and drinking and driving? I believe that through education and awareness, looking at the facts, the dispelling of alcohol related myths, changing our attitudes about alcohol and by talking to our children - we can save young lives.

Let’s talk about education and awareness. As parents, caregivers, teachers, mentors, and community leaders we should take advantage of the many free educational resources related to underage drinking that our area has to offer. In Tangipahoa Parish we have many organizations that focus their efforts on drug and alcohol abuse awareness and prevention. Tangipahoa Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council (TADAC), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.), and Tangipahoa – Reshaping Attitudes for Community Change (TRACC) are just a few that offer informative free resources for parents and teens. You can call them, visit them, request information from them, and ask them to visit your school or civic club to share information about the wonderful prevention work that they are doing in our parish. The more you learn about prevention, the better you will be able to talk to your teen about the dangers of alcohol.

The fact is that underage drinking is a problem in Louisiana. According to a report produced by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) with funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), in 2007 underage drinking cost the people of Louisiana $1.3 billion dollars. This cost is made up of pain and suffering, work lost, and medical costs. There are other problems related to alcohol use by minors that also contribute to this cost such as youth violence, youth traffic crashes, high-risk sex, youth property crime, youth injury, poisonings and psychoses, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome among mothers age 15-20, and youth alcohol treatment. The report also states that young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and are two times more likely to become abusers of alcohol than those who began drinking at age 21. Underage Drinking, according to the report, not only hosts tragic health, social, and economic problems, but is a causal factor in homicide, suicide, drowning, burns, and violent and property crimes, to mention a few. It also notes, that approximately 183,000 underage youth in Louisiana drink each year and that in 2007 underage drinkers in our state consumed 12% of all alcohol sold here, totaling $279 million in sales. Also in 2007, an estimated 61 traffic fatalities and 3,200 non-fatal traffic injuries involved an underage drinking driver. These facts are startling but very much a reality.

Dispelling common myths about alcohol is another way to fight underage drinking. Much of the information teens and youth think that they know about alcohol is untrue. Where do they get this information? – From T.V., movies, music, and in most cases their peers. Much of this information is “myth” not “fact”. Giving your teen the facts so that they can make wise decisions related to alcohol will help to keep them safe from the consequences of making unwise decisions. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHSA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggest that common misconception among teens is that alcohol isn’t as bad as other drugs; however, the fact is that it increases their risk for many deadly diseases and drinking alcohol quickly can lead to alcohol poisoning and death. Alcohol use is also the door opener to many other types of drug use, such as marijuana and prescription drug abuse. Beer and wine are not as bad as liquor – Not true! Beer and wine can have as much alcohol as a shot of liquor. Many teens also believe that drinking alcohol is a good way to loosen up or be cool. The fact is that there is nothing cool about losing your inhibitions, doing harmful things that you wouldn’t normally do like fighting and having sex, saying dumb things, stumbling around, passing out or puking on yourself. Sobering up fast by taking a cold shower, drinking coffee, or walking it off before you get home or into a car to drive is not smart! On average it takes 2 to 3 hours for a single drink to leave the body – nothing speeds up that process. As a teen your brain and body are still growing, underage drinking can cause learning problems and lead to alcoholism as an adult. Many teens also think that “everyone” else is doing it (drinking) and that they need to do it to fit in. SAMHSA research shows that most kids don’t drink and that more than 70% of youth aged 12 -20 haven’t had a drink in the past month in a 2006 national survey. Drinking alcohol as a minor is a big problem – it is illegal and has consequences. You may be fined, lose your driver’s license, have to perform community service, take alcohol awareness classes, end up in jail, and even worse you may harm yourself, your best friend , or someone you don’t even know.

Changing our attitudes and how we view alcohol is another way to help end underage drinking. Tangipahoa – Reshaping Attitudes for Community Change (TRACC) is working to create healthy attitudes and community wellness for all of Tangipahoa Parish, by recognizing and addressing alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse as serious social and public health issues. TRACC also helps to support local law enforcement in their efforts to fight drinking and driving, provide community billboards to raise awareness, fund the Channel 17 “Checkpoint” show, and offer many community programs to our youth and parents about the dangers of alcohol. In partnership with Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa, TRACC offers an anonymous tipline to report underage drinking, alcohol sales to minors, and other alcohol related offenses related to minors. That number is 1-877-NOT-B-4-21. As adults we have to change our attitudes about alcohol and our youth. By setting the example for our children and being responsible with our choices related to alcohol we can change the way our children view its use. If our children see us having a mixed drink, glass of wine, or a beer and then get into a vehicle and drive them home – we are ultimately telling them through our actions that it is okay to drink and drive.

Talking to your children is a simple way to help them make good decisions. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.) has introduced a new program called the “Power of Parents”. This informative program offers tips to parents for creating an open dialogue with your teen about alcohol. They believe that by connecting, educating, being a role model, encouraging, monitoring, and enforcing you can influence your child in a positive way where drinking is concerned. The program offers simple solutions and suggestions to opening up conversations with your teens, when you do not know what to say or how to tackle to the subject of alcohol and its consequences.

Ultimately reducing underage drinking is everyone’s responsibility. Our responsibility as parents, caregivers, and community members is to educate ourselves and our children, talk to them openly about drugs and alcohol, and to set the example for them to follow. Also, the National Family Partnership celebrates Red Ribbon week this month. Red Ribbon week is observed in our local schools and this year’s theme is “I am Drug Free”. Call your school to find out how you can get involved in your child’s school celebration. The community resources that I wrote about today are available for your use. Please contact them for information, questions, and a list of additional resources in our area. TRACC, MADD, and TADAC will be happy to speak to you individually, or to your PTO, school, church, business, or civic club about their programs.

TRACC: www.tangitracc.org MADD: www.madd.org TADAC: www.tadac.org SAMHSA: www.stopalcoholabuse.org or http://toosmarttostart.samhsa.gov National Family Partnership: www.nfp.org

To report underage drinking, alcohol sales to minors or any alcohol offenses related to minors anonymously call 1-877-NOT-B-4-21. You will never be asked for your name and may be eligible for a cash reward from Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa if your tip results in an arrest.

Article submitted by Jodie W. Powell, CEO/ED, Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa, Inc.

Sources: Underage Drinking in Louisiana – The Facts, produced by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) with funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), November 2009; TRACC website – www.tangitracc.org ; SAMHSA & U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Underage Drinking Myths vs. Facts brochure(SMA-4299) www.samhsa.gov ; MADD Power of Parents program www.madd.org/powerofparents