Teens continue to abuse alcohol

13 years ago

    HOULTON — A 14-year-old with a blood alcohol content of 0.32? Could that have really happened here in Aroostook?
    Sadly it did – and continues to happen. In Aroostook County, the age of onset for first incident of alcohol abuse is between 10 and 13. In the situation with the 14-year-old, two 18-year-olds purchased and gave the alcohol to the 14-year-old and her friend who then consumed the alcohol at the friend’s home. The youth were home alone because the friend’s parent had brought another child to an after-school event. In the time period where the youth were home alone, the 14-year-old consumed so much alcohol that she became incoherent and was unable to walk.
    Michelle Plourde Chasse, project manager of Community Voices, said, “This incident is unfortunate, and to me, professionally serves as a reminder that we need to do more to educate the entire community. The amount of alcohol being consumed by teens is underestimated and a lackadaisical attitude on the matter is insupportable.” 
     Recent survey results back these comments up. According to a phone survey of Maine parents, only 10.9 percent of Aroostook County parents believe their high school child has had alcohol in the past 30 days, and less than 2 percent believed their child had engaged in binge drinking. However, 2009 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS) results indicate that 34 percent of Aroostook teens had at least one alcoholic drink in the past 30 days while 20 percent engaged in binge drinking.
    Clare Desrosiers, project director of ASAP Coalition adds, “In the incident with the 14-year-old, both parents were unaware of what their children were doing. Parents who were surveyed were also unaware that their children had been drinking. It is not unusual for parents to believe they can trust their teens to stay out of trouble when left unsupervised for short periods of time. Yet, brain research indicates that ‘Adolescents are at an age where they do not have full capacity to control themselves. They’re missing the neurologic brakes that adults have. As adults, we need to do some of the controlling. What this means is that while parents should trust their kids, they should also monitor what they are doing and check on them often. Unsupervised time after school is when teens get into the most trouble. By checking in often, parents can prevent bad things from happening to their teens, all of whom make poor choices at some point in time.”
    For the past several years, several police departments in the County (Ashland, Caribou, Presque Isle, Madawaska and Sheriff’s Departments) have made a commitment to addressing underage drinking by increasing enforcement of underage drinking laws – they have been engaged in party patrols, investigated when adults gave alcohol to youth, and checked that retail stores ask for ID when young adults purchase alcohol. These departments will be continuing their efforts because what they do saves lives. In the incident described above, the report of a concerned citizen who saw the incoherent 14-year-old, and the police intervention, very likely saved the teen’s life.
    Prevention coalitions and the Maine Office of Substance Abuse offer five simple, time-proven tips for preventing teen alcohol use through increased parental monitoring.
    Limit your teen’s access to alcohol. Keep track of what and how much you have in your home, and keep it where it’s not accessible to teens. Network with other parents. Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents and let them know where you stand on underage alcohol use.
    Enforce your rules consistently. Make sure your teen understands your rules and the consequences if they are broken. Check in often with your teen. Be sure you know how to reach them. Ask them where they’re going, if anyone will have alcohol, and if adults will be present. Be up and ready when your teen comes home. Ask them about their night and be prepared for what you will say or do if you discover they’ve been drinking.
    Parental monitoring is critical in preventing underage alcohol use. In fact, high school students who don’t believe they would be caught by their parents are three times as likely to drink alcohol.
    For detailed tips and information about how to prevent underage drinking, contact ASAP Coalition at 521-2408 or Community Voices at 834-5540 ext. 2019, or visit www.mainparents.net.