Underage drinking a growing problem

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 3, 2004

Editor’s note:

This is part one of a two part series on underage drinking.

A local action committee continues its development to fight underage drinking in Butler County.

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The person responsible for bringing the committee together is Fort Dale Academy Headmaster David Brantley.

He told those attending Thursday night at the Depot that in his view and the view of many, the problem of minors drinking alcohol is progressively getting worse.

&uot;We’re trying to educate parents and make them more aware of what the dangers of alcohol are for our young people,&uot; he said.

&uot;We think the youth want the issue addressed and we want them to know that we care about them and we love them.&uot;

He said he wants to see this area as a place where young people do not have to worry about peer pressure, because there is none.

&uot;We want to create a situation where teen drinking is not an issue,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s not a punishment issue. It’s an act of concern. We want these kids to know how much we really care about them and that we are ready to work with them to address the problem.&uot;

To aid in the discussion were four men from Mobile and Baldwin counties that formed the Underage Drinking Task Force to combat the same problem.

Dr. Pat Taylor, the principal at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile said their committee began approximately two years ago.

&uot;The two groups, the schools and law enforcement, who could stop the problem continually fail,&uot; he said.

‘We don’t know how to stop the problem.&uot;

He said the problem must be stopped within the community by saying &uot;change has to come from the citizens.&uot;

&uot;In the last six months, we’ve had a lot of successes,&uot; he said.

&uot;The problem isn’t gone, but our ultimate product is to see more kids stop using or adjust the amount they use.&uot;

He told those assembled that is takes three areas to make the program work.

Those areas are enforcement, youth and community awareness.

He said many people would be surprised to know that it is more dangerous for kids to drink than to use illegal drugs.

&uot;A lot of attention is paid to illegal drug use, but little is paid to the amount kids are drinking,&uot; he said.

Consider the following as published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

N One-third to two-thirds of all &uot;date rapes&uot; occurring among teens and college students involve the use of alcohol.

N One-half of the girls that have sexual intercourse under the age of 17 are intoxicated.

N Research indicates that 40 percent of youth that start drinking under the age of 15 will become alcoholics.

N As many as 360,000 of the nation’s 12 million undergraduates will eventually die from alcohol related problems, many which begin in college or even earlier, in high school. This is more than the number who will earn a master’s or doctorate.

N Alcohol is a big factor in 33 percent of all suicides in young people, 50 percent of homicides, 62 percent in assaults, 68 percent of manslaughter, 50 percent of head injuries and 40 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Twice the number of auto crashes involves youth and alcohol, as opposed to those 21 and older.

N About 3 in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives.

Taylor said the task force has no formal plan in place, but do believe the problem is quite serious.

&uot;The time has come to respond and change the culture of our youth,&uot; he said.