Alcohol is the most abused substance by American youth and more likely to be the cause of young people’s death over all other illegal drugs combined. Each April, Alcohol Awareness Month is sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) and this year’s theme is “Talk Early, Talk Often: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Alcohol Use.”

Access is usually what determines which substance young people use, according to Katharine Sadler, author of What Adults Need to Know about Kids and Substance Use. Alcohol and cigarettes—known as “gateway drugs”—are often the substances that adolescents use first because they are easy to obtain. Parents need to make sure that they don’t become the suppliers of these substances because easy access to alcohol may send the message to young people that drinking is less serious than using drugs.

Some parents host parties that serve alcohol for young people, but Sadler cautions against this. “Parents who host parties that furnish alcohol can firmly believe they are doing the right thing and being good parents,” notes Sadler. “They reason that teens will drink anyway, and by hosting a party they will keep them safely under supervision.”

Parents may justify serving alcohol to young people because they can take away car keys and provide sleeping arrangements or rides, but Sadler says these adults are communicating that it’s okay to break the law, and that alcohol is necessary for social functions. Providing alcohol for teens also removes a strong inhibitor to young people who would otherwise refrain from drinking because they fear parental disapproval.

What Adults Need to Know about Kids and Substance AbuseWhat Adults Need to Know about Kids and Substance Use provides a practical overview of the substances that kids are most likely to abuse and what actions adults can take to intervene. In support of Alcohol Awareness Month, receive a free copy* of this useful book with any purchase of $100 or more in the Search Institute Store (a $29.95 value).

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