- Only 6% of Marion area residents believe that it is okay for teens to drink at parties if they don’t get drunk (per their response to a random survey in Summer 2004).
- Nearly 1 in every 4 Marion area youth (grades 6-11) got drunk at least once in the 2 weeks prior to responding to a survey that asked that question (2002).
“Everything in moderation,” right? Wrong. There are some activities that even moderate participation is harmful. This is true in the case of young people and alcohol.
Alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions, allowing them to do what they may not otherwise do, such as having sex or unprotected sex. Consider, too, that even one “moderate”experiment with sex can leave a person with a lifetime of medical problems (eg, herpes, chlamydia , and other sexually transmitted diseases), a new life-long responsibility (pregnancy), and/or a life-threatening illness (HIV/AIDS). That’s not even to mention that drinking alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal, just like shoplifting.
In an online article entitled Alcohol and Sexual Risk-Taking: What Parents Need to Know (http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/parents/experts/blake.htm), Jeanne Blake writes of parents’ difficulty recognizing their child’s alcohol use: “Dr. Brian Johnson, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says many parents choose to avoid the issue for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, he says, they fear pushing their child away. Other times it’s denial. “When something is frightening, like you know your child is behaving in an unsafe way,” Dr. Johnson explains, “You can decide you won’t think about it. You tell yourself it will be all right. But kids’ drinking is Russian roulette.”
The following facts underscore Dr. Johnson’s point – that underage drinking is indeed a form of Russian roulette:
- Teens who report drinking alcohol on at least one occasion are seven times more likely to have had sexual intercourse than nondrinkers.
- Binge drinkers, like those who have ever used drugs, are three times more likely to have contracted an STD than nonproblem drinkers and nondrug users.
- Alcohol is more closely linked to sexual violence than any other drug and is a common companion to rape, including date rape. Alcohol use, by the victim, the perpetrator or both, is implicated in 46 to 75 percent of date rapes of college students.
“Source: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, Dangerous Liaisons: Substance Abuse and Sex, 1999. ”
What can YOU do about this issue: Talk with young people about their use of alcohol – you want them to be safe. Be aware of where you child is going, who they are going with and when they will be back. Pay attention to signs that your child might be using alcohol. Get involved in the Marion Area Coalition for Healthy Communities to make the Marion area as safe and healthy as possible. For more information, contact the Marion Area Family Resource Center in the lower level of the library or at 715.754.2491.