Many teenagers drink alcohol — some even before they become teenagers.
Let’s acknowledge that young people love to party. And when they party, they usually drink.
And when teens are bored, oftentimes they drink.
It’s common for teens to gather, raise a little heck, and drink.
Whether it be peer pressure, stress or it’s become a habit, teens drink for many reasons.
All of which raises this question: Where are teens getting all this alcohol?
Sadly, all too often, it’s adults buying it for them. Or, teens are simply taking it out of their own home and parents don’t notice the missing beer or hard liquor. And if they do notice, they don’t do anything about it and just buy more.
While we might think no big deal, just kids having fun, it’s part of growing up, underage drinking is far from harmless.
The 2018 Kauai Youth Report by Keiki to Career Kauai had this to say:
“Alcohol and other drug use among youth is a major health problem nationally. Substance use and abuse can increase the risk of injuries, violence, HIV infection and other diseases. While experimentation with drugs and alcohol is often considered a normal part of adolescence, drug dependence and abuse are major barriers to education and success transitioning to adulthood.”
According to the report, one of four Kauai high school students is at increased risk for drug or alcohol abuse. That’s a significant ratio. If 25 percent of our high school students are at increased risk for drug or alcohol abuse, we’ve got a problem that can’t be ignored.
If you need more convincing this is an issue, the Kauai Youth Report found that as kids got older on Kauai, more of them used drugs and alcohol.
The report said that 11 percent of seventh-graders used drugs and alcohol; 15 percent of eighth-graders; 21.4 percent of ninth-graders; 21.5 percent of 10th-graders; 27.6 percent of 11th-graders and 34.6 percent of 12th-graders. That’s alarming.
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that people ages 12 through 20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. It also reported that 5.1 million young people reported binge drinking at least once in the past month.
OK, so what’s the problem with drinking? Isn’t this America, where nearly 250 million people over the age of 21 drink beer? Can you blame youth for drinking when so many adults do? What, really, did we expect?
Per the institute, here are just a few of the dangers of underage drinking:
• Based on data from 2006–2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, on average, alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 4,358 young people under age 21 each year.
• In 2011 alone, about 188,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries.
• Drinking can lead to poor decisions about engaging in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, sexual activity, and aggressive or violent behavior.
• Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.
• Research shows that young people’s brains keep developing well into their 20s. Alcohol can alter this development.
What can adults do about all this?
Well, the easiest way is set an example. We’re not saying never have a beer. We are saying be responsible when you do drink, discuss this with your children, and be sure to share the message with your kids they shouldn’t drink until they are of legal age to do so. Kids often mimic what they see mom and dad doing.
There is hope, because Kauai is an island that is resilient and caring and does not stand still when facing challenges.
And there is a specific way to be part of the solution on Kauai.
Life’s Choices Kauai is seeking volunteers for its “Sticker Shock” prevention campaign, which hopes to raise awareness about the real-life consequences of underage drinking.
The campaign, which is on Friday, May 10, from 4:30 to 9 p.m., is a collaboration between the county, business owners and their customers, and island youth.
Participants of the campaign will meet at businesses around the island that sell liquor, and set up sticker displays that call attention to the legal ramifications of providing alcohol to minors.
“We would like to invite anyone who’s interested to join us in our efforts to educate the community on the negative effects of underage drinking,” liquor Prevention Specialist Leialoha Sanchez said. “We plan to post over 3,000 stickers that day, and could use the help.”
Life’s Choices Kauai Coordinator Theresa Koki added that the initiative enhances leadership and advocacy skills of youth participants as well as provides other peer-to-peer opportunities.
“In addition, it’s a great way for parents to start a discussion on this important topic with their keiki,” Koki said.
For more information and/or to volunteer for this event, contact Koki at 241-4925 or email@example.com, or Sanchez at 241-4926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our youth need our help. Let’s answer this call.