By Raquel Mustillo
WITH Christmas almost here, the region’s peak alcohol and drug misuse advocacy group has urged parents and other adults to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to underage drinking.
As increased police patrols and designated driver campaigns and help make our community safer during the holiday season, Substance Misuse Limestone Coast believe underage drinking is one danger often overlooked and dismissed during the festive period.
The group say parents are the solution to the underage drinking problem and is encouraging adults to ensure no child is participating in alcohol use.
Substance Misuse Limestone Coast project officer Sophie Bourchier said parents play a pivotal role in driving attitudinal change and zero-tolerance messages were the most protective against alcohol use and consequences.
Ms Bourchier said adolescents are more vulnerable to the danger of alcohol than adults and the longer teenagers delay drinking alcohol, the more their brain has an opportunity to develop without adverse affects.
“Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs, it is the one that most people present to hospital with and it it one of the hardest drugs to withdraw from,” she said.
“The effects alcohol has on the adolescent brain includes learning, memory and social problems and emotional intelligence problems and can result in alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, violence and self-harm.
“Alcohol use can also be linked to long-term health problems, such as breast and bowel cancer, liver problems and high blood pressure.”
The call follows the release of a survey of 15-year-old students from four schools in the region, which revealed almost 30pc had tried alcohol by 13 years.
Of the respondents, 29.5pc reported being drunk in their lifetime, with 11.5pc reporting being drunk during the last month.
Substance Misuse Limestone Coast board member Michael Schultz said while serving or purchasing alcohol for a minor was illegal, a number of parents still had permissive attitudes to underage alcohol use.
“If we want to know why it is happening, we have to have a look at the mirror,” he said.
“We are happy to just accept that it happens and that needs to change, because to me, we are not sending a good enough message to society.
“Pressure needs to be not only put on kids but also parents, who allow this to happen.
“It is a very difficult position to be put in, but parents have got to stand up.”
While the survey revealed an overwhelming majority of parents know where their children are in the evenings, Ms Bourchier raised concerns with unsupervised teenagers being out late at night.
“What good happens for a teenager outside of the family home after midnight,” she said.
“This is where kids are drinking away from the outside home and then all of the exposure to the affects of alcohol suddenly increase.
“We are developing sleep guidelines for parents to remind kids need between nine to 11 hours every day, so if kids have to wake up at 9am they should be asleep by 9pm and not laying in bed with their mobile.”
Mr Schultz encouraged parents to be clear about expectations and provide information about the consequences of drinking underage.
“At the end of the day, parents need to start questioning their children and make them feel uncomfortable,” he said.
“They have to make some hard choices so they can impact their child in a positive way.”