After making great strides in previous decades, one study shows that teen drinking is now on the rise. The study was conducted by the Partnership for a Drug Free America among 9-12 grade students in 2009 and was released in March this year. The study’s results showed a considerable increase in students who admitted to drinking in the past month – up to 39 percent or 6.5 million students. In 2008, the number of students who reported drinking over the past month was 35 percent, or 5.8 million teens.
One newspaper in New Jersey reported on and confirmed the study’s results at local high schools such as Holmdel High School, where teachers and counselors are not surprised by the increase in drug and alcohol use in teens.
Jon Gaspich, a student assistance counselor in New Jersey’s Toms River Regional Schools District, commented on the study and his own experience in an article published in the Asbury Park Press. “Prevention and intervention were very strong in the late 1980s through the ‘90s, resulting in great strides against teen drug and alcohol use,” he said. “However in the past decade, prevention hit a plateau, and the state as a whole was riding off the efforts of the previous decades, rather than doing anything new…. Now, we’re going to see a rebound.”
Gaspich went on to say that one of the biggest problems in fighting underage drinking is that many parents downplay the dangers of alcohol versus drugs – an attitude that “it’s only alcohol.” But statistics show that alcohol is the leading cause of death among young people – a fact that needs to be communicated early and often to teens and parents.
Also noted in the article was the work of the Holmdel Youth Alliance in New Jersey, a group of concerned teens who give presentations to middle schools students to build alcohol awareness and promote a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle. The group admits that the work is challenging, but they’re enthusiastic about showing younger kids that not all teens are drinking or using drugs. Alliance member Austin Guiarino, age 16, was quoted in the article as saying, “We hope younger kids will see that there’s a group of kids who don’t do drugs and they will think, ‘if they can do it, maybe I can too.’”
“Study: More teens turn to drugs, alcohol,” app.com, May 16, 2010.