By CARY QUASHEN
April is National Alcohol Awareness Month and this year’s theme is” Help For Today, Hope For Tomorrow.” Alcohol Awareness Month was established in 1987 by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) to help reduce the stigma often associated with alcoholism.
Many have heard me say that I dislike awareness months. I dislike them, because I believe we should be educating people and changing lives on a daily basis.
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But I’ll take a yearly recognition if draws attention to the destructive disease of alcoholism and educates people about recovery, especially adolescents.
“Help For Today, Hope For Tomorrow” is a call to action focusing attention on underage drinking and the devastating effects it can have on our nation’s youth. Underage drinking is a complex problem,that can only be solved with the cooperative efforts of parents, schools, community leaders and America’s youth.
Please be aware that no substance of abuse is more widely used and abused by America’s youth than alcohol, making alcoholism and alcohol-related problems the number one public health problem in the United States.
The widespread prevalence of underage drinking and the negative consequences it creates remain an epidemic despite decades of efforts to combat it.
There are four areas that can be effective in the prevention arena:
• We can curtail the availability of alcohol to underage populations.
• We can consistently enforce existing laws and regulations regarding alcohol purchases.
• We can change the cultural attitudes and behaviors about alcohol use through education.
• And last, but not least, continue to expand access to treatment and recovery support for adolescents and their families.
But, time is running out. Studies reveal that alcohol consumption by adolescents results in brain damage – possibly permanent – and impairs intellectual development.
Alcohol is a drug that can affect judgment, coordination, and long-term health, and research suggests that early use of alcohol by adolescents may contribute significantly to dependence on alcohol and other drugs later in life, with 40 percent of children who begin using alcohol before the age of 13 become alcoholics at some point in their lives. Alcohol is the number one drug of choice among America’s youth and is a factor in the four leading causes of death among persons ages 10–24.
Many parents believe that because alcohol is a legal drug, it’s hard for them to think of it as being dangerous. Other parents say they find it difficult to talk about alcohol because they drink. It’s never too early to start talking with your child about drinking. Some children start asking questions when they are 4 or 5 years old.
Many parents make the mistake of waiting until their child has begun drinking. However if you listen and respond to your child early on in life, you may be able to prevent problems from developing later.
So, let’s get started providing “Help For Today, Hope For Tomorrow.” We can’t afford to wait any longer.
Cary Quahsen is a certified addiction specialist, the president and founder of Action Parent & Teen Support Group Programs, The Zone, and Action Family Counseling Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs. He may be reached by calling (661) 297-8691.
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