Tips for Parents: ReThink the Drinks

by Lil Cronin
First published by The Milton Times, December 2018

Alcohol abuse and addiction are significant problems in our country and in our town. Yet it can be prevented by delaying use to at least 21 years of age.

To understand the scope of the problem, an estimated 88,000 deaths per year have been attributed to alcohol abuse. According to Journal of the American Medical Association, “Excessive alcohol use is one of the most common causes of premature mortality in the United States”. Tens of thousands of these deaths are due to chronic diseases and acute accidents. As well, the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is “one of the major preventable causes of birth defects and developmental disabilities”.

In 2016, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that over 9% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 years drink alcohol and almost 5% had an episode of binge drinking in the last 30 days. Milton rates of high school age binge drinking (5 or more drinks in one sitting) is twice the state average.

Briana Keating coordinates a program called ReThink the Drinks, in collaboration with the substance abuse prevention programs in Milton, Braintree, Quincy and Weymouth. (You may have noted the ads in the Milton Times.) She notes that Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are among the most common drinking days of the year, as well as a time for increased risks associated with underage drinking.

Parents, guardians, and involved adults impact the decisions young people make regarding alcohol use. Ms. Keating notes the fact that “ 83% of youth between the ages 10 and 18 say that their parents are the number one influence on their decision to drink alcohol”. She provided five steps for adults to take to help our youth be safe and alcohol-free during the holidays:

  • Encourage an open dialogue with our children on alcohol ( e.g., handling peer pressure; older siblings not providing alcohol to younger siblings, etc.);

  • Set clear expectations;

  • Be available to them, no matter the situation in which they may find themselves;

  • Plan activities that are fun and do not involve alcohol;

  • Secure and monitor the alcohol in the house.

As noted in the “Rethink the Drinks” website , alcohol is the most commonly used drug among youth in the US. Research shows that alcohol use can interfere with healthy brain development into one’s mid - twenties. Its use can damage, specifically, the areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning, decision-making and self-control. Also, alcohol use before the age of 21 increases a child’s risk of developing alcohol dependence. Being involved in our children’s lives and monitoring their activities improve their chances for a healthy and safe life experience.

For more information for parents, visit www.rethinkthedrinks.com or the Milton Substance Abuse Coalition’s website www.milton-coalition.org