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Underage Drinking and COVID 19
We are living through a pandemic that most of us have never experienced in our lifetimes. Recessions, depressions, wars, the Spanish Influenza, COVID-19 – do you know what all these national crises have in common? Alcohol sales flourish during times of uncertainty and stress. Nationally, alcohol sales have increased in stores by 29% since late March – and 291% through online sales. During times of stress and hardship, people look for ways to cope, and sometimes their choices are not healthy ones.
Youth have been at home since late March, and now with online school being over for the summer, have less to occupy their time. With many parents being essential workers or working from home, youth may be unsupervised for periods of time. Increased quantities of alcohol around the house pose a risk for underage drinking.
In addition to being the most commonly abused substance in the nation, alcohol is still the number one drug of choice for young people. Because it is so easily accessible, youth often begin experimentation with alcohol that can lead to early dependency and significant health risks. We know that the majority of youth do not drink alcohol, but many adults in our society view underage drinking as a rite of passage, and “no big deal”. We should not minimize the health risks and consequences associated with underage drinking which the CDCP (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has identified:
- School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
• Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
• Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
• Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
• Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
• Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
• Physical and sexual assault.
• Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
• Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
• Memory problems.
• Misuse of other drugs.
• Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
• Death from alcohol poisoning.
Did you know that youth who start drinking alcohol at or before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than if they had waited until the legal age of 21 to drink? (NIDA) That's a significant risk!
Parents can protect their children from the dangers of drinking by taking these proactive steps:
- Keep alcohol out of the house, or locked up so that youth cannot access it.
• Keep a log of how much alcohol is in your house, so that if any goes missing you can be aware.
• Talk to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking and establish both rules and consequences about alcohol.
• Talk to your kids about the importance of social distancing and to avoid parties or gatherings.
• Never provide youth with alcohol, even under your supervision.
• Do not drink excessively in front of youth; you are their role model.
If you worry either you or your child may be having problems with alcohol, talk to your healthcare provider. For more information and resources to address alcohol and other drug use and how to talk to your child, go here: https://www.samhsa.gov/underage-drinking
Working together we can all do our part to keep youth healthy and safe. For more about Mercer Council or the Prevention Coalition of Mercer County, go to www.mercercouncil.org.