GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 24, 2013

Letter: Taking aim at teen drinking issues


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Teen alcohol use exceeds all other drug categories nationally, statewide and locally.

The more information you have, the more you can help your teen and yourself to make healthy and safe choices .

Please join us this Thursday at Rose Baker Senior Center from 6:30 to 8 p.m. to get informed about the legal consequences of underage drinking that can affect your teen and you.

We will welcome District Attorney Blodgett and Attorney Richard Campbell to Gloucester to help us all understand our responsibilities, because in the eyes of the law, “not knowing is not a defense.”

This event is a partnership of Healthy Gloucester Collaborative, the Gloucester Police Department, Gloucester Licensing Board and Council on Aging.

“Many parents and other adults, think drinking is an inevitable part of teen years… once adults see the harm to the teen brain, this thinking hopefully will change,” says Dr. John Knight of Boston Children’s Hospital (visit teen-safe.org.)

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 90 percent of adult addiction begins before the age of 18 and nationally, four out of five people over 12 years of age have tried alcohol.

The 2011 Gloucester Student Health Survey shows a downward trend of high school teen “current” alcohol use, or use within 30 days of the survey, from 56 percent to 45 percent for the period between 2007 and 2011.

While good news, however, there remains cause for concern. Gloucester teen alcohol rates continue to be above the Massachusetts state averages for current teen use — the state average is 40 percent — and in binge drinking as well.

Let’s look at some myths and facts regarding underage drinking, and the social host law:

Myth: “Just alcoholics suffer serious effects of alcohol, it will never happen to me.”

Fact: The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports: One in six U.S. teens report alcohol induced blackouts, half of sexual assaults are alcohol-related and unprotected sexual activity, riding with a drunk driver or reckless driving increases with use.

“Alcohol and drug use begins as a choice but the line between experimentation and addiction is a line we only know we’ve crossed when it is no longer in our control,” says Amy Kamm, LICSW, Adjustment Counselor, Gloucester High School.

Myth: “Everybody is drinking, so I don’t want to be different.”

Fact: 55% of Gloucester teens report they do not drink. Join the majority, be aware of consequences and don’t let drug use impact grades and your future goals.

“It’s good news more Gloucester teens are making the healthy choice to be clean and sober. We need to continue to work together, youth and adults, to reach 100 percent — that’s our goal,” says Erik Anderson, principal at Gloucester High School.

Here are a few tips for talking to kids about alcohol:

Teens whose parents and/or caregivers talk with them about the dangers of drug use are 42 percent less likely to use drugs. (www.redribbon.org )

Praise healthy decisions and actions; teens feeling competent and confident is essential for healthy social/emotional development and choices.

Address confusion: Youth receive mixed messages from media and behavior they observe. Send a clear and consistent message of alcohol harm to their developing bodies and the legal consequences of alcohol possession. (visit teen-safe.org; and the Essex County District Attorney’s office through mass.gov.

“Kids and teens involved with family and healthy activities are less likely to use alcohol and other drugs. Kids need involved parents, praise for the good they do and clear expectations. Talking together is important regarding alcohol and other substances,” says Dr. Brian Orr of Cape Ann Pediatricians.

JOAN WHITNEY

Director, Healthy Gloucester Collaborative

DR. BRIAN ORR

Cape Ann Pediatricians

ERIK ANDERSON

Principal, Gloucester High School

AMY KAMM

Adjustment Counselor, Gloucester High School