Making Shelby drug-free

Published 11:31 am Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When I share with people that I coordinate the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition, a program of Family Connection, Inc., it usually leads to many questions. The Coalition is a volunteer-based group comprised of individuals from throughout Shelby County. Our purpose is preventing substance abuse among youth in Shelby County.

The question that I can always depend on is, “What is the biggest substance abuse problem with youth in Shelby County?” The answer is underage drinking. Many young people do not feel that alcohol is harmful, and many adults feel the same way about underage drinking. Let me share with you why this is our biggest issue and why the Coalition is concerned about this.

It is against the law for anyone under the age of 21 to buy, possess or consume alcohol, but it is also dangerous to a young person’s health. Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after 21.

Annually, about 300 youth die from alcohol overdose, 70,000 are sexually assaulted and more than 600,000 are physically assaulted as a result of drinking or being with someone who’s been drinking. Four hundred thousand students have unprotected sex as a result of drinking, which puts them at increased risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

According to sixth- through eighth-grade students in Shelby County Schools, the average age they report first trying alcohol is 11. It is never too early to talk to your children about alcohol use.

On March 29, from 12:30-1:30 p.m., the Coalition and Family Connection are sponsoring a town hall meeting to Stop Underage Drinking at Family Connection’s Alabaster campus. Join us for this important discussion and let your voice and ideas be heard.