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The No. 1 drug problem in U.S.

April 9, 2012
The Daily News

April is Alcohol Awareness Month in Michigan, and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission is encouraging all local communities to take this time to focus on the consequences of underage and binge drinking in their communities.

Alcohol Awareness Month is intended to educate people and communities about the consequences of alcohol-related problems.

There are more than 18 million individuals or 8.5 percent of Americans who suffer from alcohol-use disorders.

In addition, there are millions of individuals who experience the devastating effects of the alcohol problem of someone in their life.

In fact, 25 percent of U.S. children are exposed to alcohol-use disorders in their family.

Statistics show that every year more than 6,500 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related injuries involving underage drinking and thousands more are injured.

Some 23.2 percent of high school seniors reported participating in binge drinking (having five or more drinks in a row) in 2011, the National Institutes of Health reports.

The fourth leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24 is alcohol, officials at Narconon of Oklahoma Inc. said.

Alcohol also is a major factor in the three leading causes of death for youth, which include suicide, motor vehicle crashes, and homicide, and is linked to two-thirds of all sexual assaults and date rapes of teens as well as college students.

Alcohol abuse is the No. 1 drug problem facing the United States.

Youth violence, traffic crashes, property crime, treatment, and medical aid due to underage alcohol use costs the state of Michigan $2 billion annually.

Underage drinking only happens because adults allow it, because someone over the age of 21 has purchased, provided, or assisted an underage person to obtain alcohol.

The Michigan Department of Community Health is encouraging all adults to "Do Your Part" in preventing underage drinking.

"Underage drinking is a major public health concern," said Olga Dazzo, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. "Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in our state. It's especially troubling since youth who start to drink before age 15 are seven times more likely to experience alcohol problems as adults."

Although strides are being made to reduce underage drinking, the Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates that 69 percent of Michigan high school students, 9th through 12th grade, reported having at least one drink during their lifetime.

For high school seniors the rate is higher at 77 percent. In addition, 35 percent of those high school seniors reported drinking alcohol within the past 30 days.

Some statistics about America's drinking habit:

- America's young people choose alcohol more so than any other product they are prohibited by law from having, more than tobacco or illicit drugs.

- 17 percent of 12-20 year olds report binge drinking in the past month.

- 35 percent of teens cite drinking and driving as a top social concern.

- 42 percent of full time college students report binge drinking.

Recently, the Michigan Department of Community Health worked with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to develop a video that focuses on the fact that adults have a role in preventing underage drinking.

Adults may be parents, siblings, or other family members. But it's also beyond family.

Coaches, teachers, law enforcement, clergy and retailers can have an impact as well.

Regardless of our roles and identities, adults interact with youth on a regular basis and everyone can help send a clear message that underage drinking is not appropriate.

Here are some ways adults can send a clear message and "Do Your Part:"

- Parents can set clear rules and expectations with their children that in their family it is not OK to drink before the age of 21.

- Teachers can set rules in their classrooms that talking about parties that occurred over the weekend and involved drinking is not allowed.

- Coaches can set clear standards that drinking by members of their team is not allowed, and enforce these standards consistently and without exception.

- All concerned community members can take part in local Alcohol Awareness Month activities.

The Michigan Department of Community Health reminds anyone over 21 that it is never OK to purchase or supply alcohol to a minor.



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