Drug council targets underage drinking

The National Drug Council is targeting underage drinking in April’s public education campaign to mark Alcohol Awareness Month. This year’s theme is ‘Keep Our Future Growing – End Underage Drinking’.

This month’s observance is the second year the NDC has focused on the growing trend.

Last year’s campaign was launched against the background of research from the 2002 Students Drug Use Survey. This local study revealed that alcohol was the drug of choice among middle and high school students. The NDC noted an increase in the number of young people reporting use of alcohol and the data showed a spike in cases of binge drinking, especially in the post Hurricane Ivan period.

The NDC’s drug use survey, which has been conducted in schools since 1998, also revealed that more children were using alcohol and doing so at far too young an age.

Data from the 2002 survey showed that over one third of young people between the ages of 11 and 18 years reported alcohol use in 12 months prior to the study.

An NDC advisory reported that worldwide studies conducted under the auspices of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime also showed that underage drinkers were more likely to experiment with illegal drugs than non-smokers and teetotallers.

Chairperson of the National Drug Council, Mrs. Julene Banks said that part of the Council’s goal during this month was to encourage parents to become more informed about the dangers of alcohol abuse and talk with their teenagers on those dangers.

‘This is a community issue that calls for strong action and support from everyone and we at the NDC recognise that providing useful information to parents, teachers and students can be a first step in putting this issue on the public agenda,’ she said.

‘Children do listen to and follow their parents and they deserve to be given information that will help them make the right choices,’ she stated.

Simon Miller, NDC’s acting chief executive officer, noted that results of a more recent Student Drug Use Survey will be available by mid-April.

‘Nevertheless, we continue to be concerned that underage drinking is a factor among our young people and therefore we have an imperative to keep up the public education campaign against this,’ he said.

NDC’s efforts this month include distribution of posters highlighting underage drinking.

The NDC has also produced a brochure, ‘Together We Can Talk About Alcohol – A Guide for Parents’, in conjunction with The National Parenting Programme, which will be circulated to parents in all three islands.

Another plank in this year’s campaign will be public service messages in the media on the dangers of underage drinking.

For further information, contact the NDC at 949-9000.

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