More in News
A Clear View
Underage drinking hurts far more than young people's bodies and minds. It also hurts families. It causes conflict and leads to poor attendance and lower grades in school. Sadly, for some, it also ends in death or prison.
America currently exists in a state of tolerance for underage drinking. Even though laws prevent young people from drinking, alcohol is easily accessible to those below the legal age of 21.
For many people, underage drinking is a social norm. One reason that underage drinking is tolerated is because the harmful consequences are not fully realized. Statistics show the earlier people start drinking, the more likely they are to develop an alcohol use disorder in their lifetime. In fact, those who drink before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop dependence than those who start after 21.
Underage drinking also leads to risky behavior, because many young people do not have the maturity to drink responsibly. This risky behavior sometimes leads to death; in fact, alcohol is a leading contributor to death by injury. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, about 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die every year as a result of underage drinking — from crashes, homicides and suicides.
Research has also shown that introducing alcohol to an adolescent can be harmful to the development of their brain. This can lead to learning difficulties, memory problems and other problems later on in life.
Our youth are saturated with advertisements for alcohol, images in mainstream media that encourage underage drinking, and jokes in mainstream movies give alcohol a cool image.
Our young people have very easy access to alcohol. On average, a child nowadays takes his or her first drink at the age of 13.
To really curb underage drinking we must stop the enablers. Catching and punishing adults who supply alcohol to teens is the key. It will discourage party-hosting that puts young people at risk.
The most recent results of the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey indicate that 39 percent of River Valley High School teens reported using alcohol in the past 30 days. The good news is that based on that figure, 61 percent of River Valley teens did not drink alcohol, reducing their current risk of injury.
Teen drinking is not a rite of passage. Teen drinking is not inevitable. Teen drinking is illegal, unsafe and unhealthy.
Should you become aware of a situation involving adults sanctioning underage drinking, call the Oxford County Sheriff's Office tip line at 1-800-733-1421.
It is our responsibility as members of the River Valley community to come together in an effort to keep our children safe.
The River Valley Healthy Communities is a Healthy Maine Partnership and works to promote health in all its aspects in the Western area of Oxford County. The office is located at 94 River St. in Rumford. You may also call 364-7408 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the Healthy Communities and its programs, visit www.rvhcc.org