Photo Courtesy NIH
The month of April is Underage Drinking Awareness Month and Los Alamos Public Schools is sharing information about why teenagers drink, Los Alamos County student data, and the important role parents play.
Underage drinking is a serious public health problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is the most widely used substance among America’s youth, and drinking by young people poses enormous health and safety risks.
Why Do So Many Young People Drink?
As children mature, it is natural for them to assert their independence, seek new challenges, and try taking risks. Underage drinking is a risk that attracts many adolescents. They may want to try alcohol but often do not fully recognize its effects on their health and behavior. Other reasons young people drink alcohol include peer pressure, increased independence (or the desire for it), and stress.
According to the 2019 NM-YRRS survey of LAPS high school students:
• 28.8% are current alcohol users
• 16.4% first drank alcohol before the age of 13
• 8.6% are engaged in binge drinking and
• 14% rode with a drinking driver.
Of students in grades 6-8:
• 6.1% are current alcohol users
• 4.9% drank alcohol before the age of 11
• 13.7% rode with a drinking driver and
• 21.1% reported it was very or sort of easy to get alcohol.
Did You Know?
The most common place for students who report that they are current alcohol users to drink is in private homes. It may be tempting to think youth are safe if they drink at home – the following statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism say otherwise: Underage drinking and drug use harms the developing brain and make it more likely for young people to be injured or assaulted; have unprotected sex; experience academic failure; or become involved with law enforcement. Research also shows that young people who start drinking before the age of 15 are 4 times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.
The Role Parents Play
Parents and teachers can play a big role in shaping young people’s attitudes toward drinking. Parents in particular can have either a positive or negative influence. According to the 2019 NM-YRRS protective factors, students are less likely to engage in risk behaviors if they have strong relationships with adults in their family, school, and community and with their peers; strong connections to and involvement in the school and community; and plans for their future education.
Parents can help their children avoid alcohol problems by:
• Talking about the dangers of drinking
• Drinking responsibly, if they choose to drink
• Serving as positive role models in general
• Not making alcohol available
• Getting to know their children’s friends
• Having regular conversations about life in general
• Connecting with other parents about sending clear messages about the importance of youth not drinking alcohol
• Supervising all parties to make sure there is no alcohol
• Encouraging kids to participate in healthy and fun activities that do not involve alcohol
In our schools, LAPS Prevention Support Specialist Brandi Seekins supports the protective factors listed above in order to reduce the likelihood of risky behavior in students K-12. Seekins also sits on the Los Alamos County DWI Planning Council which meets monthly to discuss, evaluate and help with incidences of DWI, alcoholism, alcohol abuse, alcohol-related domestic violence and underage drinking in Los Alamos County. The Los Alamos DWI Program also participates in RACSTOP through the SMART Recovery Program, an abstinence oriented, non-profit organization for individuals with addictive problems.
New Mexico Crisis & Access Line/Linea De Crisis Y Acceso
1-855-466-7100 (WARM LINE)
Los Alamos JJAB Resource Specialists
Assistance with navigating the maze of private and public resources and connecting families to counseling and related services.
Los Alamos Family Council, 505-662-4160 http://lafamilycouncil.org/
Affordable behavioral health services for individuals and families including but not limited to substance abuse programs, DWI school, and employee assistance programs.