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Commentary: Underage drinking during COVID-19

Take notice of teens using alcohol as pandemic persists

Posted 5/19/20

EAST BAY — Today we face a national crisis in the form of a deadly pandemic. However, we at the East Bay Regional Coalition remind all there is a hidden link between COVID-19 and other national …

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Please support local news coverage –

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Commentary: Underage drinking during COVID-19

Take notice of teens using alcohol as pandemic persists

Posted

EAST BAY — Today we face a national crisis in the form of a deadly pandemic. However, we at the East Bay Regional Coalition remind all there is a hidden link between COVID-19 and other national crises we have faced. From wars, economic recessions, to Spanish Influenza, alcohol sales flourish during times of stress and hardship.

Today is no different. Nationally, alcohol sales have increased by 22% in retail stores and 291% through online sales. With youth being at home, and many times unsupervised by parents who are essential workers, the increased quantities of alcohol at home pose a significant health risk.

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the US, but the health risk is often minimized due to its legality and widespread use. While the majority of youth do not drink alcohol, some Americans view underage drinking as a normal part of our culture. This can lead to an underestimation of the risk that alcohol carries for youth.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has identified the following consequences to underage drinking:

• School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
• Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
• Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
• Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
• Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
• Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
• Physical and sexual assault.
• Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
• Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
• Memory problems.
• Misuse of other drugs.
• Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
• Death from alcohol poisoning.

It should also be noted that youth who binge drink, (four drinks for women and five drinks for men in a two-hour period), significantly increase these risks, especially for developing alcohol dependence. It should be noted that thresholds for binge drinking is typically fewer drinks for youth who are typically smaller than adults.

Alcohol can also impair judgment and may cause youth and adults to be more likely to gather in groups at a time when social distancing is important for everyone.

There are a variety of reasons some youth may choose to drink alcohol. Peer pressure, popular media, boredom, self-medicating, rebellion, instant gratification, low confidence, and misinformation about alcohol are just some of the reasons. While youth are isolated at home they may be exposed to more alcohol-promoting media and be participating in fewer activities. Some may become bored or curious and want to experiment. Other youth may be stressed, lonely, or experiencing worsening mental health and may turn to alcohol.

Parents can take proactive steps to protect their youth from the dangers of underage drinking such as:

• Keep alcohol out of the house, or locked up so that youth cannot access it.
• Keep a log of how much alcohol is in the house, so that if any goes missing you can be aware.
• Talk to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking and establish both rules and consequences about alcohol.
• Talk to your kids about the importance of social distancing and to avoid parties or gatherings.
• Never provide youth with alcohol, even under your supervision.
• Do not drink excessively in front of youth; you are their role model.

If you worry either you or your child may be having problems with alcohol, talk to your healthcare provider or contact KidsLink at 1-855-543-5465. Working together we can all do our part to keep youth safe. For more about the East Bay Regional Coalition call (401) 247-1900 or visit www.riprevention.org.

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