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11-08 Survey shows first-time increase in alcohol use among Utah high school seniors in 14 years

Survey shows first-time increase in alcohol use among Utah high school seniors in 14 years

After declining steadily in the previous years, past-month alcohol consumption among Utah high school seniors increased noticeably in 2017. A state survey, published in October 2017, shows that the 30-day alcohol use among high school seniors (12th graders) increased from 13.6 percent in 2015 to 14.7 percent in 2017.

It was the first upward trend in alcohol consumption since the inception of Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) survey in 2003. Not only among the seniors, alcohol consumption rose slightly during the same period among sixth graders also, reaching 0.9 percent from 0.7 percent.

The SHARP survey is a statewide biennial exercise involving approximately 50,000 students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 in Utah. Although overall alcohol sales and consumption in Utah have increased significantly in the past decade, rates of underage drinking had dropped meaningfully. The trend somewhat reflected in the latest SHARP survey which showed a decline in alcohol consumption among students in grades 8 and 10, largely mirroring earlier trends.

There was also a slight increase in binge drinking (consuming five or more drinks in succession by a male and four or more by a female in the last 30 days) among Utah high school seniors, from 8.1 percent in 2015 to 8.6 percent in 2017. However, binge drinking rates among students in grades 6, 8 and 10 remained constant or declined. According to Doug Murakami, director of Parents Empowered, the alcohol education campaign for Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC), the increase in alcohol consumption was “not completely unexpected.”

Despite the increase, the rate of alcohol use is considerably lower than what it was at the inception of the survey. It is also lower than the American average. Lifetime alcohol use among students across all grades continued to decline, from 18.8 percent in 2015 to 18.1 percent in 2017.

Easier access to alcohol at home a worrying trend

As per Murakami, the fact that a large number of teens are being able to access alcohol at home with their parents’ approval is of particular concern. According to SHARP, nearly 43 percent Utah teens who drink reported that they had access to alcohol at home with their parents’ approval, while 31.5 percent had access to it at another home with parental approval. Over the past few years, Utah has been registering record increases in alcohol sales. Murakami had previously stated that increased sales lead to better access.

The Parents Empowered program uses information from the SHARP survey to run statewide campaigns which include television commercials, radio advertisements, outdoor ads, and liquor store messages. The aim of these measures is to encourage parents to play a more active role in preventing underage drinking. The DABC’s 2016 annual report noted that the Parents Empowered program appeared to be “working well” as evident from the consistent decrease in underage drinking every year during which the program has been in operation.

Parents key influence in preventing underage drinking

Contrary to common perception, teens listen to parents as parental disapproval is the main reason why children refrain from drinking. However, Murakami finds it a “little bit alarming” that a significantly high percentage of the youth get alcohol at home with their parents’ permission. The survey findings indicated that all kids, regardless of their upbringing, need their parents’ help in staying off alcohol. Therefore, it is important to reach out to parents and urge them to stop providing alcohol to their children.

Underage drinking continues to be a cause of concern as alcohol is the most commonly used/abused substance by the American teens. Teens who drink alcohol face a number of negative consequences, including problems at school, social and legal problems, physical/sexual assault, higher risk of suicide, homicide and unintentional injury, changes in brain development which may lead to lifelong impacts, and death due to excessive alcohol consumption.

Dealing with alcohol addiction

Anyone can fall prey to an addiction, and when the source of alcohol for teens is their parents, it is tough for any program to break through. However, addiction is not the end of the road; it can be treated with proper support from a credible rehab.

The Rancho San Diego facility of Sovereign Health treats adolescents battling addiction to alcohol and other substances. Our experts use a combination of medication and behavioral therapies for teen alcohol abuse treatment. They address the physical aspects of teenage alcoholism and treat urges that compel teenagers to abuse alcohol. Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with our experts for more information on our teen alcohol rehab.

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