“Holding young people solely responsible for underage drinking is like holding fish responsible for dying in a polluted stream.”
– Face Project
Images of mangled vehicles repeat on a loop, day after day. We are enraged. We shake our heads in disbelief. We are filled with sorrow for those who have suffered such great loss. But why did this happen?
Physicians, nurses, pharmacists spend hours upon hours studying physiology. They learn how to prescribe, administer and/or dispense the correct dose of a medication. Thousands of these transactions take place each day. A mistake could result in an adverse response to the medication up to and including death. Consumers of the prescribed medication must read the instructions (sometimes pages) to be aware of harmful side effects.
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Every day convenience store clerks, bartenders, store cashiers and restaurant servers are responsible for safely “administering” the legal drug alcohol. Their required training includes checking ID, not selling to minors, and not serving or selling to an intoxicated individual. Thousands of these transactions take place each day. A mistake could result in an adverse response to alcohol up to and including death. Consumers of alcohol should know (because there are no instructions) the harmful side effects.
North Carolina is an Alcohol Control State where spirituous liquor is sold only in ABC stores. The landscape has changed in the last five years. Malt beverages are sold at almost every other business imaginable including general merchandise stores, drug stores and tobacco shops. This adds to the purchase convenience for legal adult consumers but makes alcohol more available to minors.
There are over 500 Alcohol Outlets (AO) in Durham. Everyone has a right to own and operate a business and business is good for all of us, however, Alcohol Outlet Density (the number and types of AO in a given area) is a growing national concern. A decision must be made regarding the number of alcohol outlets, where they are located and the impact on public health.
Until such decisions can be made, Together for Resilient Youth has engaged over 350 AOs in the TRY Good Neighbor Business Network. This successful endeavor has resulted in an increase in the number of establishments that do not sell to minors from 40 percent to 86 percent. A recent compliance check conducted by the Durham Police Department and Alcohol Law Enforcement of 110 establishments identified 79 that did not sell. We must continue to be diligent.
Parents believe that when children grow vertically it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief. Parents must be more watchful because the landscape has changed. Alcohol is marketed using bright colors, sweet flavors and catchy phrases that may appeal to a much younger crowd. Parents might have an easier job of monitoring if flavored alcohol beverages were only sold in ABC stores. When you child goes off to college don’t let go. The added stress of being away from home, the new set of peers, the lure of new unfamiliar experiences can trigger self-medication with alcohol. Don’t let them get “this close” to a tragic situation.
Safe consumption can be summed up by remembering: 0 alcohol under 21, when driving, while pregnant or when taking certain medications; 1 standard serving of alcohol per day for females and 2 standard servings of alcohol per day for males. Parents please monitor or lock up alcohol and do not purchase or serve alcohol to minors.
Learn more about Together for Resilient Youth coalition, Bands Against Destructive Decisions (TRY’s school age coalition) and CollegeTRY for young adults at DurhamTRY.org
Wanda Boone is the founder of Durham TRY (Together for Resilient Youth).