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Community-based drug prevention programs across the nation will be promoting Alcohol Awareness this month to increase public understanding of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. While some parents and guardians may feel relieved that their teen is “only” drinking, it is important to remember that alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug.

Alcohol and drug 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 behavioral problems. Research shows that brain development continues well into a person’s 20's. Alcohol can affect this development, causing youth to make irresponsible decisions, encounter memory lapses, or process and send neural impulses more slowly. Underage drinking is a complex problem, requiring cooperation at all levels of society.

Four basic approaches have proven to be effective in prevention of the problem:

  • Changing cultural misconceptions and behaviors about alcohol use through education
  • Curtailing the availability of alcohol to young people under age 21
  • Consistent enforcement of existing laws and regulations regarding alcohol purchase
  • Expanded access to treatment and recovery support services for adolescents and their families

Alcohol use is very risky business for young people. The longer children delay alcohol use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it.

Rick Gale

Elks Drug Awareness Program