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Effort underway to curb teen alcohol use

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Melissa Dotter discusses tee... (Download MP3)

WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) -  It’s almost time for proms and graduation, and some Marathon County groups are working on ways to cut underage drinking problems.

Melissa Dotter is with the Alcohol and Other Drugs Partnership Council, which hosted a forum Tuesday. Dotter says they had a great discussion about the problems alcohol creates for young people. “We had a great panel, looking at the way alcohol impacts the teen brain and the teen body. We also heard from a local woman who is living with alcohol-induced dementia, and can trace her years of alcohol abuse back to when she started as a teenager, and we also heard from our youth serving organizations and those that work with youth.”

Dotter says studies show that young people who drink are five times more likely to have problems with alcohol as adults. She says early alcohol use is also a big problem that affects learning. “there’s some studies that show that the brain doesn’t fully develop until we reach at least 25, in some cases it may go up as far as 27, so the more damage that we do to our brains early on through our teen years, the more likely we are to have problems, let’s say if they went on to secondary or postsecondary school, to college.”

One of the studies was recently released, called the “Burden of Alcohol Report.” That found the various problems directly traceable to alcohol use is very expensive. The report claims every man, woman and child’s cost is approximately $1200, leaving a family of 4 paying $4800 across Wisconsin.

Another dangerous trend with teen drinking is HOW they consume alcohol. Dotter says teenagers have different drinking patterns than teenagers a generation or two older. “The way that kids drink now is different than it was back in the day, when there was Boone’s Farm and people drinking PBR. It’s now high-alcohol content drinks. Kids are drinking fast. Kids are drinking with the goal to get drunk.”

The Council is working with various groups, law enforcement, and teen leaders to have alternative activities available for young people.

Dotter says the relatively new Social Host Ordinance is important. With this, anyone that provides a location for underage drinking can be fined up to $5,000. Dozens of citations have been written under this ordinance since it was enacted in 2011.

More information about the Alcohol & Other Drugs Partnership Council and several studies is available online.

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