According to Anita Miller, Program Manager for Drug Free Communities, the most recent PAYS data (Pennsylvania Youth Survey) tells us that the top “drug of choice” among our youth is alcohol. As I type the word ‘alcohol,’ I sense a collective community sigh of relief. I imagine some who say, “thank goodness it is just alcohol,” others who think alcohol is not really a drug, and still others who proudly recount the young age at which they took their first drink.
Alcohol has a long history of being the most socially acceptable drug in many cultures, and ours is no exception. So maybe it will come as no surprise that almost 50% of our high school seniors surveyed said the adults in their neighborhood would see it as not wrong (or only a little wrong) for youth to drink regularly, and 25% of our high school seniors said their parents would see it that same way. This helps to explain why 66.1% of seniors said they had a drink in their lifetime, 30.7% said they drank in the last 30 days, and 14.5% said they had 5 or more drinks in the past two weeks.
Clearly, when adults send a message that it is not wrong for youth to drink, youth think they have permission to drink. That permission, along with the accessibility of alcohol, is not a good mix for teens. Adolescence is a time of rapid growth for the body and the brain. Drinking alcohol during these years has a negative impact on this important phase of brain development. Do your part to contribute to healthy brain development for our youth – start the conversations early, talk often and send a clear message that underage drinking is not OK.
For more information or to get involved with Drug Free Communities follow the Northeast Community Springboard Coalition on Facebook or contact Anita Miller @ (610)376-6988.
By Nadine J. Smet-Weiss, Community Liaison,
Translated by Johnathan Rodriguez-Baez, Youth and Health Resource Center Coordinator