During Alcohol Awareness Month, the nation takes note of the progress in reducing rates of underage drinking and celebrate the efforts of communities across the country who are working together to prevent underage alcohol use.
According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), we as a nation have seen a decrease over the past 15 years in the percentage of 12- to 20-year-olds who report any lifetime alcohol use: 56.2 percent in 2002 down to 41.0 percent in 2017.
However, Sabine Parish has a long way to go in this area. The 2018 Caring Communities Youth Survey (CCYS) data reveals that Sabine Parish students reported the following for lifetime alcohol use: 6th grade 22.6%, 8th grade 48.8%, 10th grade 55.2% and 12th grade 53.8 %. For drinking in the past 30 days, 6th grade reported 9.2%, 8th grade 21.5%, 10th grade 37% and 12th 18%. Binge drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks at one sitting. Sabine 6th graders reported binge drinking at 5.4%, 8th graders 16.1 %, 10th graders 26.1% and Seniors at 18.4%.
The Sabine Prevention Alliance (SPA) a community led coalition is working toward increasing awareness of our underage drinking problem through meetings at schools, churches, agencies, with parents and youth to arm them our citizens with the facts and engage leaders in developing effective strategies to prevent and reduce this problem. In the past month, SPA Members visited five schools, three churches, and the Sabine Parish Fair Day to provide evidence-based information to students, parents and teachers. Over 250 parents were engaged and many requested more information or how to volunteer. The SPA plans to visit every school in the parish to assist in increasing awareness about underage drinking and other risk factors. One of the SPA’s evidence-based strategies is the SAMHSA Communities Talk town hall meeting.
SAMHSA’s initiative, Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking began in 2006 with the goal of bringing together stakeholders ranging from parents to law enforcement and educators to elected officials–anyone with an interest in preventing underage alcohol use and high-risk drinking among young adults. Nearly 10,000 Communities Talk events have taken place since then, starting important conversations around strategies and approaches for prevention efforts, and they’re making a difference. After the 2016 Communities Talk cycle, 84 percent of participants said they gained new knowledge about underage drinking, and 94 percent planned to share materials or lessons learned with others. A critically important audience for Communities Talk events are parents, whose awareness of the prevalence and risks of underage drinking is essential to continuing the success of these efforts.
What’s In this for You?
As SPA Members visited with people in our communities, we found that most folks had no idea of the prevalence of underage drinking nor did they know of current prevention efforts other than possibly the Dare Program in schools. Almost all the people we visited were disturbed by the numbers, showed a deep concern for our children and youth and wanted to know what they could do to help. Here are a few things we all can do to help prevent and reduce underage drinking in Sabine Parish: