By the HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools
Alcohol is by far the most abused drug among teenagers. Parents need to be aware of the risks involved with teenage drinking so they will be better informed, and therefore, better motivated to protect their children. The bottom line in preventing teenage drinking is drawn at the feet of parents. The stronger the relationship between parent and child, the less likely that child will be to abuse alcohol.
Here are some practical ways to protect your child from the dangers of drinking:
Talk to your child about your expectations regarding alcohol. A zero-tolerance policy actually works best but only if it is strongly communicated by the parent.
Have consequences in place in case your child breaks your alcohol rules.
Know where your child is at all times, and who he is with.
Do not allow your child to spend time at someone else's home until you have found out about its "alcohol environment."
The following are statements made by Joseph Califano, president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, regarding the serious nature of teenage drinking.
Teen drinking is the number one source of adult alcoholism.
Children who begin drinking before age 21 are more than twice as likely to develop alcohol-related problems.
Those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times likelier to become alcoholics than those who do not drink before age 21.
Children under the age of 21 drink 25 percent of the alcohol consumed in the United States.
Preliminary studies have shown that alcohol damages young minds, limiting mental and social development. High school students who drink are five times likelier to drop out of school.
The gender gap that for generations separated alcohol consumption by girls and boys has evaporated. Male and female ninth-graders are just as likely to drink (40.2 percent and 41 percent) and binge drink (21.7 percent and 20.2 percent).
Beer and other alcohol are implicated in the three top causes of teen deaths: accidents (including traffic fatalities and drowning), homicide and suicide.
Teenage drinking is a major issue that affects not only the drinker but the people and community surrounding them. In Montana, the following consequences for teenage alcohol use can and do apply.
For a minor in possession and under the age of 18, first offense: A fine of not less than $100 and not to exceed $300, driver's license confiscated by the court for 30 days and 20 hours of community service, plus the offender and his or her parent/guardian must complete and pay all costs of participation in a community-based substance abuse information course approved by the state.
For a minor attempting to purchase and under the age of 18: A fine not to exceed $100.
Purchasing or furnishing alcohol for a minor is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500, imprisonment not to exceed six months, or both.
Consumption of alcohol by teenagers is a community problem, and as a community we need to face it and help our local law enforcement discourage it. For more information on the local Zero Tolerance for Underage Drinking Campaign or youth substance abuse prevention programs, contact the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line at 265-6206.