Priscilla Behnke. Photo by Mason Callejas

By Priscilla Behnke

With the Tide Pod challenge slowly losing steam, it’s important to remember the No. 1 ingested poison by teens in Maricopa is alcohol.

According to the latest Arizona Youth Survey (2016), roughly 860 teens consumed alcohol last month. It is more students than are enrolled at Maricopa Elementary School. The survey also told us of those who drank, 68 binge-drank (five or more drinks in one setting); 300 got their alcohol at a party and 200 directly by their parents. Thirty-five reported driving while drunk. And 138 reported riding in a car with a drunk driver.

We do not know if it is a friend or parent who was drunk while driving. We do know they thought a drunk driver was an acceptable mode of transportation.

Alcohol abuse by teens is not a right of passage. It is a risk with possible lifelong consequences. Seventy-five percent of alcoholics began drinking before age 15. The AYS showed 14 was the average age of first use by Maricopa teens. Even scarier is aggregated data show eighth graders are starting at 11.

If alcohol prevention isn’t taken seriously by those guiding this generation, they won’t be burning their mouths on Tide Pods; they will be sinking their potential down a glass of vodka or becoming another statistic on the 347.

Parents should not be passive bystanders as children aimlessly wander through adolescence. It is a common misconception that underage drinking is OK if done with the parent. Research shows that kids who drink with their parents will drink without their parents. But teens whose parents talk with them about their disapproval of underage drinking are less likely to drink.

Here are some tips to help you lead the fight for prevention in your home:

  1. Know the facts and share them with your child. Misinformation is bombarding your child daily. Share early and share often.
  2. Set firm rules around drugs and alcohol in the home, let them know you expect them to abstain and, if they don’t, what the consequences will be. Then follow through.
  3. Monitor your alcohol and lock it up if you have too.

If you’re wondering if your teen is already using, here are some signs to look out for:

  • Changes in style of clothing, hair or music.
  • Hanging out with a bad crowd or new friends you don’t know.
  • Isolating from the family.
  • Changes in attitude or sudden burst of anger.
  • Paranoia – acting like everyone is out to get them.

If you and your family need assistance finding help with alcohol and drug treatment, contact the Be Awesome Youth Coalition at 520-428-7750.

Priscilla Behnke is program director for Maricopa CAASA and Be Awesome Coalition.


This column appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

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