(April 5, 2012) Youth violence, traffic crashes, property crime, treatment, and medical aid due to underage alcohol use, cost 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 Health Department of Northwest Michigan is encouraging all adults to “Do Your Part” in preventing underage drinking.
“Underage drinking is a major public health concern,” said Erika Van Dam, Family & Community Health Supervisor. “Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in northern Michigan. 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.
Numerous communities are holding town meetings about underage drinking around the state during the months of March and April, including Petoskey. SAFE in Northern Michigan hosted a Town Hall Meeting last week to increase community awareness of underage drinking, identify how underage drinking affects the community, and brainstorm possible solutions. Preventing abuse of over-the-counter and prescription drugs was also discussed. Over 40 attended the program in Petoskey, which included a panel of legal, health, education, and prevention professionals.
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, as adults, we all have a role in preventing underage drinking. We 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 unacceptable.
For video examples of what individuals can say in their unique roles to discourage underage drinking, go to www.nwhealth.org and click on the “Do Your Part” link. Here are some ways adults can send a clear message and “Do Your Part”:
Van Dam reminds anyone over 21 that it is never OK to purchase or supply alcohol to a minor. For additional information, call Van Dam at 231-347-5832 or visit www.michigan.gov/mdch-bsaas.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties.