By James El-Mallakh–
A coalition of several local area drug prevention groups met at an open community forum to discuss problems and prevention methods regarding underage drinking.
The local groups, under the title of the PAL Coalition, met in the First Gethsemane Baptist Church Development Center last Thursday.
The event featured two key speakers. The discussion focused on statistics about underage alcohol abuse and methods that can be used by parents to help diminish the possibility of their children drinking while underage.
“Alcohol dependence is highest among one age group in America,” said speaker Ted Strader, a substance abuse counselor, “18 to 20 year-olds going to college.”
As the Executive Director at the Council on Prevention and Education: Substances, Strader was equipped with multiple statistics regarding underage drinking.
“40 percent of college students abuse alcohol… regularly,” said Strader. “Half of them are likely to have bad outcomes in their lifetime.”
Because college students are a high-risk age group, one of the members of the PAL Coalition is the BRICC group, which is housed at the University of Louisville. An on-campus drug prevention program, the Building Resiliency in the Campus Community group, focuses on increasing resilience towards substance abuse on campus.
The Brown-Foreman group and Beam Inc., are in a combined effort to combat alcohol abuse in college students. In early August, the two groups announced they will donate $600,000 to U of L and the University of Kentucky to be used on alcohol education programs at both schools. The two groups, since 2008, have given both universities a total of $1 million dollars to educate students about the danger of underage drinking.
Heather Parrino, the BRICC Coalition Coordinator, made a distinction between effective and ineffective methods of preventing drug abuse. BRICC uses a nationally recognized system of tiers of effectiveness. The effective education and prevention methods are the first tier and ineffective ones are the fourth tier.
“We only choose to implement things that actually work,” said Parrino. “We don’t do red ribbon weeks; we don’t do car-wrecks on campus, where they have students dressed up with blood; and we don’t sponsor speakers.”
Two of the methods BRICC uses to curb underage drinking are challenging students’ expectations about alcohol and training students for intervention procedures.
After the speeches, the floor was opened to discussions and questions from the audience.
Despite Strader’s emphasis on the impact of underage drinking on college students, the meeting took place away from U of L’s campus and contained very few college students in the audience. The location for the event was originally meant to take place in a venue closer to U of L but had to be relocated due to a scheduling conflict.
A 2012 survey conducted by Michigan State University asked adults what their concerns were regarding children’s health. The survey revealed that obesity, stress and lack of exercise were of greater concern to adults than alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse came in eighth place overall.
To explain why alcohol abuse is less of a concern than other issues, Strader said, “parents respond to what they’re made aware of in the media.”
“[Alcohol abuse] hasn’t been a hot media topic.”
The PAL Coalition is funded in part by a federal grant given by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, or SAMSHA.
Photo: James El-Mallakh/The Louisville Cardinal