MHLbannersmallAnd the spotlight is on underage drinking

Over the course of millennia, great numbers of people throughout the world have looked to drinking alcohol as a source of comfort, conviviality and community. In our own region, the settlers at Jamestown quickly began brewing beer not only as a welcome break from the rigors of early colonial life, but also as a safer alternative to the often tainted water.

The historical record also tells us that in the course of Christopher Newport's supply voyages, barrels of the higher quality brew from the mother country were high on the wish list of people in the struggling colony.

Alcohol use through the years is not, as we know, all positive. Alcoholism and alcohol-related abuses have devastated families and brought pain and isolation to many individuals. Like a number of other things in life there can be a wide gap and a life-changing difference between moderation and overindulgence. While the more positive aspects of responsible drinking seem to be doing fine on their own, Alcohol Awareness Month focuses on the concerns related to over consumption in general and underage drinking in particular.

Not that this comes as news to anyone, but alcohol use by young people is extremely dangerous both to themselves and those around them. Although it can be difficult to quantify the full range of concerns, underage drinking is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors. The numbers tell the story:

  • Teen_DrinkingAlcohol is the number one drug of choice for America's young people, and is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined.
  • Each day, 7,000 kids in the United States
    under the age of 16 take their first drink.
  • Those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at age 21.
  • More than 1,700 college students in the U.S. are killed each year - about 4.65 a day - as a result of alcohol-related injuries.
  • 25 percent of U.S. children are exposed to alcohol-use disorders in their family.
  • Underage alcohol use costs the nation an estimated $62 billion every year.
  • Annually, over 6,500 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related accidents and thousands more are injured.

Sponsored since 1987 by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Alcohol Awareness Month is a time to create more public awareness about underage drinking and encourage individuals and families to get help for alcohol-related problems. Because alcoholism can develop at an early age, it's especially critical that families are familiar with the kind of intervention, treatment and recovery support that is available if someone close to you is at risk or already abusing alcohol.

For more information on Alcohol Awareness Month as well as the range of resources available to parents, youth and communities, be sure to visit