April is Alcohol Awareness Month

A great deal of focus has understandably been on the opiate epidemic in recent years. With April being Alcohol Awareness Month, this seems like a good time to refocus on a problem that has produced more than its share of tragedies - underage drinking.

A recent study that was reported on by the New York Times updates data on the issue and looks at strategies to deter youth drinking generally, but considers the lethal combination of drinking and driving and some methods for reducing it.

The study, published in February in the journal “Pediatrics”, examines alcohol policies and alcohol-related car accident deaths. It found that the majority of under-21 car fatalities happen in the evening.

It proposes policies that aim to curtail drinking as well as ones that seek to reduce the chance that those youth who are drinking will get behind the wheel or be a passenger in car driven by someone who has been drinking. 

The study cites the usual suspects - parents and peers - as determinative in an adolescent’s relationship with alcohol. How parents model attitudes and behavior, and whether they disallow their children to drink or condone it. Dr. Tim Naimi, a physician and alcohol researcher at Boston Medical Center and senior author of the recent paper, said, “What parents do — the way they drink and whether they drink at all — is more important than what they might say about alcohol.”  And their friends and classmates figure in a teenager’s decision about drinking.

While the optimum is that people wait until they are 21 to drink, many do not delay until then. There are new strategies to keep youth from getting behind the wheel if they have been drinking or are a passenger in vehicle driven by someone who is under the influence. One of these is for parents to pay for Uber, Lyft or another ride hailing services until their sons and daughters complete college.

There is more data currently available than there was a generation ago about the harm alcohol does to the developing brain of teenagers and young adults. Ultimately, the message that’s conveyed to teens and young adults starts with the family. More information about effective communication tips can be found at ParentCheckNJ.com. And that is something PDFNJ never loses sight of.  

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