The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence is gearing up for another national campaign against the stigma of alcoholism. The NCADD believes that the negative connotation associated with alcoholism prevents people from seeking the help that they need. One of the best ways to treat alcoholism is to prevent it in the first place.
Alcoholism takes its toll on our families, our communities and our culture, especially children living with an alcoholic parent or family member. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network explained that these children are more likely to experience a traumatic childhood because of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as neglect. Children exposed to an alcoholic parent or caregivers are also more likely to experience depression and have a lower self-esteem.
This year, the NCADD chose the theme Healthy Choices, Healthy Communities: Prevent Underage Drinking. According to the council, 25 percent of American children are exposed to alcoholism in their family, and 18 million people suffer from alcohol-use disorders. With these types of statistics, it’s no wonder that there is strong emphasis on educating and preventing underage drinking.
Also reported was a statistic regarding teenage drinking and age. Teenagers who experiment with alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent when they become adults, in comparison to those who wait until the age of 20 to consume alcohol.
Underage drinking is too often overlooked or goes unchecked by adults, parents or caregivers because of the excuse that “teenagers are just being teenagers.” Unfortunately, this mentality is allowing teenagers to abuse alcohol at a much earlier age, and some are using alcohol to self-medicate because of stress or depression.
One of the keys to success with underage drinking is having an open and honest conversation about alcohol use. Collegedrinkingprevention.gov suggests setting very clear rules regarding alcohol use and behaviors. When teenagers know what the family rules are, they are less likely to abuse alcohol. Many times, teenagers will experiment with alcohol right in your own refrigerator or wine rack. If you choose to have unsupervised alcohol in your home, be prepared for the potential consequences.
Underage drinking is a choice. What seems cool and inclusive at the time may lead to a life filled with heartache and disappointment. Parents, set a strong precedent in the home, and teenagers, dare to be the cool kid that doesn’t partake in underage drinking. That decision will never steer you wrong.