I wrote this as a comment to an article on Medfield.Patch.com this morning, and Patch told me it was way too long (“Easy there, Tolstoy. Your comment cannot exceed 1500 characters.”), so I have posted it here instead.
What I took away from the MCAP meeting last November, and from prior similar ones, was both the high incidence of binge drinking amongst the juniors and seniors at Medfield High School, but even more importantly, the research that clearly documents a direct correlation between the onset age at which alcohol use begins and the eventual rate of alcohol related problems later in life. It is apparently both well researched and well documented that the earlier in one’s life that one starts to use alcohol, the more likely it is that one will have alcohol addiction problems later in life. So every year we can get our kids to postpone alcohol use makes later addiction problems that much less likely for them.
Given that there is such a well documented cause and effect relationship between the earlier onset age of drinking and later increased alcohol related problems, and given too that those adverse results can be avoided by the current choices being made by our youth, it strikes me that we as a society should be doing whatever we can to assist our youth to:
- first, fully understand and appreciate the increased risk and the potential long term consequences of their present choices and actions surrounding drinking, and
- second, learn the strategies and gain the confidence to avoid current choices that have potential to start severe long term effects for such a significant number of them.
It was at a prior similar meeting that the speaker noted that they now know that the brain is not fully developed until we are about twenty-five years of age. As a result, the effects of alcohol use by those younger brains differs from its effect on the fully developed brain. One of those differences seems to be the greater susceptibility to addiction. If we so clearly know both that fact and those risks, how can we as a society not try to influence our youth away from behaviors that will cause then long term problems and greater grief.
I do not claim to know the answer as to how this gets done, but I do know that it is not enough to just say that we all drank when we were young, that the kids now will all continue to do it too, and as a result to do nothing. There is just too much to lose to not try to make more of a difference. I also know that society has been able to successfully change attitudes and behavior towards both smoking and seatbelt use during my lifetime, primarily by the education of our youth on the associated risks and consequences. Now it is our children who chose not to smoke and chose to wear seatbelts, and in turn teach and shame we parents into following suit. As a society, we cannot afford to risk the loss of one more of our youth to alcohol, so we must do something.
I posted at my blog, http://medfield02052.wordpress.com/, the materials from that MCAP meeting last November, which can be found at http://medfield02052.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1158&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2.