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“Alcohol Awareness Month began as a way of reaching the American public with information about the disease of alcoholism – that it is a treatable disease, not a moral weakness, and that alcoholics are capable of recovery,” according to the Count Me In Web site.
According to the Web site, the primary focus of the national campaign for the past 11 years has been on underage drinking and the devastating effects it can have on our youth.
The American Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse (ADA) indicates, “Alcohol, especially in the form of beer, is the most abused legal drug among adolescents. Though legal for use by adults, the purchase, possession, and use of alcohol by minors (persons under the age of 21) is illegal in Missouri and most other states.”
The 2008 Missouri Student Survey revealed the average age of first use, referring to drinks poured specifically for them, was just 12.39 years old.
In Ray County, the survey revealed when asked if a kid in their area/neighborhood drank alcohol they would likely be caught by police, 24 percent of Ray County students perceive they would get caught. However, that means nearly 76 perceived that they would not be caught. The survey also showed that 15 percent of middle school students and 34 percent of high school students reported 30-day use of alcohol.
“It’s not surprising, therefore, that Missouri school children tell researchers that their attitudes toward drinking are shaped more by what they see at home than from what they hear and see among their peers. A majority of them said their first experience with alcohol was at home in the presence of their parents,” according to the ADA Web site.
According to the ADA, “If the underage drinker escapes immediate death or harm, there are long-range effects to worry about. Studies show the younger a person starts to drink, the more likely the person is to become dependent on alcohol. Especially worrisome to prevention and treatment professionals is the tendency of underage drinkers to drink to excess each time they drink, leading to passing out and blackouts.”
The Web site goes on to say that adolescents who drink are at special risk because their bodies are still developing. Damage to brain cells can occur that research has linked to the development of alcoholism in persons not already hereditarily prone to the disease.
Groups such as The Ray County Coalition and Northland Coalition welcome those that would like to become active in the effort to curtail and hopefully halt underage drinking. The town hall meeting held at Richmond Middle School last week drew a small group of interested persons. It will take many more.
“It’s time we take a collective stand that underage drinking is not acceptable. If we continue to lower the bar of our expectations, we can fully expect youth to meet those low standards. It’s time to raise the bar for our youth and hold adults accountable for their role in contributing to underage drinking,” said Theresa Rice, Ray County Coalition Prevention Specialist.