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Community Forum: Alcohol awareness needs to start early

This week’s writer is Beth Diamond, a regional resource specialist at Vermont 2-1-1 and a member of the Addison County Prevention Partnership.
Each year the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (NCADD) sponsors National Alcohol Awareness Month to encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. This year, NCADD highlighted the important public health issue of underage drinking, a problem with devastating individual, family and community consequences.
Alcohol use by young people is extremely dangerous — both to themselves and to society, and is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors. Nationwide, each year more than 6,500 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related injuries and thousands more are injured.
Underage drinking is a statewide problem in Vermont.
The 2011 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which measures the prevalence of specific personal behaviors that directly affect the health of Vermont’s youth, cites the following statistics about youth and alcohol:
HIGH SCHOOL
•  60 percent of students reported ever drinking alcohol, a significant decrease from 66 percent in 2009.
•  35 percent of students reported drinking alcohol, and 21 percent reported binge drinking (five or more drinks within a few hours), in the past 30 days.
•  15 percent of students reported drinking before age 13, a significant decrease from 18 percent in 2009.
•  74 percent of students think their parents would think it is wrong or very wrong for them to drink alcohol.
•  47 percent of students think it is wrong or very wrong for kids their age to drink.
•  38 percent think kids their age risk great harm from having five or more drinks once or twice each weekend.
•  73 percent think that alcohol is easy to get.
MIDDLE SCHOOL
•  23 percent of students reported ever drinking alcohol.
•  9 percent reported drinking before age 11.
•  9 percent reported drinking alcohol, and 4 percent reported binge drinking (five or more drinks within a few hours), in the past 30 days.
•  89 percent of students think their parents would think it is wrong or very wrong for them to drink alcohol.
•  85 percent of students think it is wrong or very wrong for kids their age to drink.
•  52 percent think kids their age risk great harm from having five or more drinks once or twice each weekend.
•  40 percent think that alcohol is easy to get.
Reducing underage drinking is critical to securing a healthy future for Vermont’s youth and requires a cooperative effort from parents, schools, community organizations, business leaders, government agencies, the entertainment industry, alcohol manufacturers/retailers and young people.
What Can You Do?
The Vermont Department of Health sponsors the Parent Up campaign, an online resource that provides information and tools to help parents talk to their children about the dangers of underage drinking and refuse to provide alcohol to minors. It’s never too early or too late to change how your child feels about alcohol. The website offers information about warning signs, links to resources for getting help and support, links to informative and helpful videos. There’s even an instructive article entitled “Texting Made EZ,” which teaches you how to communicate to your kids the way their friends do. The site also provides ready-to-use newspaper ads, direct mail pieces and radio ads. Visit www.parentupvt.org.
The Addison County Prevention Partnership (ACPP) advocates for and cultivates improved healthy behaviors and well-being through prevention, treatment and recovery from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs across the diverse population of Addison County. ACPP holds monthly meetings and sponsors events and informational campaigns. Interested members of the public are invited to join the ACPP. For more information about ACPP’s meetings and events email Melanie Clark (melanieclarkvt@gmail) or Caitlin MacIntire ([email protected]), who are the organization’s co-chairs. You can also visit their Facebook page.
You can do something to reduce underage drinking here in Vermont. Parent Up and ACPP provide the tools you need to be a part of the solution, not just during Alcohol Awareness Month, but every month.

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