By Priscilla Behnke
- It’s the most popular drug. With all the talk about the latest epidemic, opioid abuse, it is important to remember that alcohol is still the most commonly used substance by teens. This holds true for our local youth. For the last 12 years all data points to alcohol being the default substance used by Maricopa teens.
- The line, “Everybody’s doing it” is a lie. It’s counter intuitive when there is an endless supply of movies ready to be streamed straight to your phone depicting teens and raging alcohol thirsty partiers, but they aren’t. In fact, while it’s the most popular drug of choice, more kids chose not to drink. According to the latest Arizona Youth Survey data, only 17.5 percent of local teens report using alcohol in the 30 days. This same survey has shown, cycle after cycle, teens who use alcohol are in the minority.
- Local teens are on the friends-and-family plan. The 17.5 percent of adolescent drinkers accessed their alcohol from somewhere or someone. According to local surveys conducted by the Be Awesome Youth Coalition, our teens are on the friends and family plan. The top two ways youth accessed alcohol were:
- Party with friends (without adults present)
- At home from parents or guardians
We need to be vigilant about where are kids are going. We shouldn’t just worry about parties; whom our children are hanging out with is also important. Get to know the parents of our children’s friends. Ensure they are not hanging out at homes where adults are sharing alcohol with minors.
- All brains are not equal. There are several reasons we should take underage drinking seriously. Brain development is ongoing for what experts believe to be into the early to mid-20s. In the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, a study completed in 2010 by neuroscientist Susan Tapert found that teens who abused alcohol do worse on thinking and memory tests than their non-drinking peers. I meet parents all the time who take pride in their child’s education. If their child is drinking, they are putting said education at risk.
- You have the greatest influence. You as a parent have a great impact over your child’s decisions. If you talk with your kids about alcohol, they will listen. Parents who do not engage in discussions about alcohol use risk leaving a vacuum on the issue open for anyone to fill. Your role as a parent is key in helping to reduce underage drinking. For more information follow us on Facebook at The Be Awesome Youth Coalition page or visit our website mcasa.org.
Priscilla Behnke is program director for Maricopa CAASA and Be Awesome Coalition.
This column appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.