Thursday, July 16, 2015

Drug Free Communities Funds Make a Difference & IPFS will Continue the Work: Underage Drinking is on the Decline

Kids these days: Maybe they’re actually doing better than we thought; or at least better than our own generations did as youths.  Here's why: A new report from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that both rates of underage drinking and underage binge drinking are on the decline.

The national study of people ages 12 to 20 found that between 2002 and 2013, underage drinking dropped from 28.8 percent in 2002 to 22.7 percent, while binge drinking fell from 19.3 to 14.2 percent for the same age group.  Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks one occasion within the past month for males, and four or more for females.  "We haven’t seen a decrease of this size in quite a while," said Fran Harding, director of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, who noted that alcohol is the No. 1 most abused substance among youths ages 12 to 20, topping tobacco and illegal drug use.

Locally Van Buren County rates for 11th grade underage drinking went down from 47% in 2002 to 27% in 2014.  While binge drinking rates for 11th grade youth fell from 38% in 2002 to 15% in 2014.  Data obtained from the Iowa Youth Survey (IYS). 

Binge drinking is almost always linked to intoxication, which commonly leads to unwanted sexual advances, drunk driving, violence and other dangerous incidents, Harding said.  It also accounts for the deaths of approximately 5,000 young people per year.  "We’re celebrating these numbers," she said. "We believe that this all fits in with the movement that this is a healthier country to live in."

Harding credits the outcome to law enforcement crackdowns in addition to SAMSHA’s work educating parents, youth and communities on the dangers of alcohol, much of which has spread via social media. In recent years, SAMHSA has led campaigns aimed at giving parents tips and resources on how best to address the dangers of alcohol with their teens.  "Parents want their children to be safe," Harding said. "They don’t want their young person to drink, but they don’t know what to say."

Needless to say, there's room for improvement among all age groups. And SAMHSA hopes to see the underage drinking numbers continue to decline as well.  "We’re hoping that we’re not there yet,” Harding said. “We’re trying to bring that alcohol number down much farther than it already is."

The Van Buren County SAFE Coalition will continue to address the problem of underage drinking locally with the receipt of the Iowa Partnership for Success Funds (IPFS).  These funds will be spent specifically to address underage and underage binge drinking. 

For more information on the work of the SAFE Coalition and underage drinking in Van Buren County please contact the SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412 or

Adapted from an article on June 26, 2015 by Cait Harrison

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