Effort needed to curtail underage drinking

Opinion: Letters to the editor

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Community-based drug prevention programs across the nation will be promoting alcohol awareness this month to increase public understanding of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The Coalition for a Drug Free Lyons Township is actively working with schools, parents, teens and community members to address the underage drinking in our community. 

Alcohol remains the No. 1 abused drug by teens. According to the 2018 Illinois Youth Survey, by senior year 79 percent of teens drink and 33 percent binge drink. Ninety percent get alcohol from parties and 42 percent from a parents unsecured liquor supply.

While some parents and guardians may feel relieved that their teen is "only" drinking, it is important to remember that early alcohol use can cause permanent damage to the still developing teen brain and can increase the risk of addiction. Those who drink before the age of 15 are at least four times more likely to have alcohol problems as adults than those who wait until at least age 21.

Alcohol reduces inhibitions and judgment that can lead to reckless decisions. This is especially a risk factor for teens since the last area of the brain to develop impacts the ability to make safe judgments and decision making skills. The longer adolescents delay alcohol use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it.

Research shows that brain development continues well into a person's 20s. Alcohol can affect this development, causing youth to make irresponsible decisions, encounter memory lapses, or process and send neural impulses more slowly.

Underage drinking is a complex problem, requiring cooperation at all levels of our community. The issue of underage drinking is a complex problem, one that can only be solved through a sustained and cooperative effort between parents, schools, community leaders and teens. 

Three areas have proven effective in prevention of underage drinking: curtailing the availability of alcohol, consistent enforcement of existing laws and regulations and changing attitudes and behaviors through education. Please join us in reducing underage drinking in our community.

Cynthia Frymark, president

Coalition for a Drug Free Lyons Township

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