A federal study finds Iowa teenagers are drinking alcohol and buying it for themselves at a rate that’s dead even with the national average. A campaign of public service announcements is being launched on the radio in hopes of bringing the numbers down. Fran Harding, director of the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, says the PSAs target Iowa’s moms and dads.
Harding says, “Our campaign that we’re rolling out today focuses on giving tips to parents so that they can learn to talk to their young people earlier and more often.” Harding says the survey found alcohol is still the most widely-abused substance by youth between the ages of 12 and 20. With end-of-school-year events like prom and graduation approaching, she says temptation for alcohol abuse is ramped up.
“Parents tend to talk to their children after a problem is in front of them or around prom time, and then they don’t talk about it again,” Harding says. “We want parents to know that we need to talk to them earlier, ages 12, 13, 14, if not even earlier than that, and to talk to them often so it becomes more of a regular conversation.”
The launch of the PSA campaign is accompanied by a new website, “stopalcoholabuse.gov”, which Harding says has helpful, interactive tools for parents. She says, “Parents can go into the website and plug in the age and the gender and the particular situation they would like to address with their young person and get actual questions and feeders and information and programming and connect them with programs around their neighborhood.”
Research shows that children who start drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to have alcohol problems as adults. The National Survey of Drug Use and Health questioned 12 to 20-year-olds. It found, both nationwide and in Iowa, about 28% of those surveyed had used alcohol in the previous month and about nine-percent had bought it for themselves in the previous month.
The states with the lowest numbers on the survey are Alaska and New Mexico, while the highest numbers are in Louisiana and the District of Columbia.