A month of awareness for a lifelong problem

art+by+Alice+Yu

art by Alice Yu

Alice Yu

With more than 4,300 annual deaths of underage drinkers from alcohol related incidents, according to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), organizations strive to educate the youth of society on the dangers of drinking. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) sponsors NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month every April and has been doing so since 1987. The 2015 Alcohol Awareness Month Theme is, “For the Health of It: Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction,” focusing on the damages of underage drinking.

While RBHS doesn’t have any alcohol awareness events planned in April, Red Ribbon Week — which took place two weeks ago and is sponsored by the guidance office — did include educational activities on alcohol prevention, along with tobacco and other drug and violence prevention as part of the Red Ribbon Week awareness campaign. One of these activities included a presentation by those who had a first-hand experience with drinking and driving.

art by Alice Yu
art by Alice Yu

“We just hosted speaker from the Highway Patrol and a individual who had a personal experience from making the choice to drink and drive that resulted in a severe car accident,” outreach counselor Kelly Anderson said.

This optional educational opportunity provided students with a look into the far-reaching effects of alcohol on individuals, families and communities. While information is available for students who seek it, not every students is forced to attend classes or sessions that stress alcohol awareness, an act junior Kate Byars agrees with.

“I definitely think it’s a terrible disease, and people need to get help. I think that it’s everyone’s individual responsibility and the responsibility of their family members and the people who love them to take care of themselves and get them that information,” Byars said. “I don’t necessarily think that Rock Bridge has a responsibility to inform people of alcohol awareness, just because it’s not really the place of a school to tell people about drugs and alcohol. It’s kind of their parents’ responsibility and their responsibility.”

With hints of alcohol awareness campaigns at RBHS, studies suggest that education presented at an earlier age is crucial to prevent alcohol dependence. Those who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to become dependent on alcohol later in life, compared to those who begin after the legal age of 21, according to the CDC.

“Alcohol consumption is a perennial issue for teenagers across the country who see the use of it as a rite of passage into adulthood. We do not support this mindset but recognize that this has been an ongoing issue nationally,” assistant principal Lisa Nieuwenhuizen said. “Our school is no different than others in that respect.  Alcohol use on campus is rare.  So far this school year there have been 10 occurrences or less than one percent of the total discipline referrals at RBHS.”

For first-time offenders of the drug and alcohol policy, Anderson offers Drug Awareness Alternative Learning courses that provide students with prevention strategies to avoid the temptation of drugs and alcohol again.

“Our Guidance office counselors are all trained to provide community resources,” outreach counselor Kelly Anderson said. “These can be addiction counselors, treatment center information and alcohol awareness information.”

By Alice Yu

infographic by Alice Yu