We can prevent underage drinking

To the Editor,

In 2017, over 7.4 million people ages 12 to 20 reported drinking alcohol in the past month. The consequences of underage drinking can be calamitous, contributing to the untimely, alcohol-related deaths of people under age 21 from homicides, suicides, car crashes, and drowning.

The words and actions of one person can make a positive difference in the lives of others. Every day, parents, caregivers, educators, and community leaders in the Upper Ohio Valley can make a difference by having conversations with youth about substance use and by modeling healthy choices and behaviors.

In fact, MOST of us are not abusing alcohol, tobacco or other drugs. According to the Drug Free Communities 4-Core Measures, about 80 percent of the youth in Brooke and Hancock Counties had NOT had a drink of alcohol in the past 30 days! 98 percent have never abused a prescription drug, and 87 percent have not smoked marijuana in the past 30 days. While we are concerned about the percentages of youth who have misused substances, there is much to be hopeful for in these statistics.

Parents and guardians in Brooke and Hancock Counties are doing a good job of sending a strong and consistent message to their children, and expressing their disapproval of underage-drinking. Parents should be proud of their concern and involvement, and of the young people who are abstaining. These statistics should be heartening to all of us who are concerned about the effects of addiction on our society.

Media campaigns are one effective way of counteracting advertising and messages in entertainment media that glorify underage drinking. However, youth also deserve to hear positive messages from people they know and who care about them. Being involved in kids’ lives and talking to them about substance use can make a difference. Studies have shown that parents have a significant influence on young people’s decisions about alcohol consumption, especially when parents create supportive and nurturing environments in which their children can make their own decisions.

If you or someone you know in West Virginia is having trouble with substance use, please call 1-844-HELP4WV.

Valery L. Staskey

Prevention Services

Brooke/Hancock Prevention

Coordinator

Youth Services System

Wheeling

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