Let’s Talk: Changing Attitudes – It’s Not a ‘Rite of Passage’
By Julia Geigle, YSB Chemical Health Specialist
With graduation and other end-of-year celebrations coming up, let’s reflect on the role alcohol may play in these celebrations, dispel myths about underage drinking, and help our children celebrate in healthy ways.
Alcohol is pervasive in our society and some parents forgive underage drinking as a “rite of passage.” However, the younger a person initiates that first drink, the more at risk they are of experiencing devastating consequences because of their use and developing an addiction. Well-intended parents may believe that they can facilitate ‘safe’ teen drinking by allowing them to drink in their home and take away their car keys. For many reasons, this isn’t safe and undermines other parents and young people. The research shows that teens in these situations are more likely to binge drink outside of the home than teens of parents who send a consistent message that underage alcohol is not allowed and is unsafe. Furthermore, over a hundred cities in Minnesota, including Stillwater and Oak Park Heights, have a Social Host ordinance . The ordinance holds individuals (social hosts) criminally responsible for allowing a party, on public or private property, where persons under the age of 21 possess or consume alcohol, regardless of who supplied the alcohol to the minors.
Remember too that it is a myth that Europe’s lower drinking ages help teenagers “learn how to drink” resulting in more responsible drinkers compared with American teens. The reality is that Europe doesn’t have a “safer drinking culture” among youth and that higher-age drinking laws (and delaying alcohol use) is a strong protective factor against alcohol problems later in life.