Survey Shows Youth Alcohol Use Continues to Decrease in MaineMarch 27, 2009 - TRCLargest Reductions Have Come in the Last Two Years AUGUSTA - Alcohol use among Maine’s 6-12th graders continues to decline, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Substance Abuse (OSA). The percent of teens that used alcohol in the past month decreased from 38 percent in 1995 to 25 percent in 2008, and binge drinking in the prior two weeks decreased from 20 percent to 13 percent. Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks in a row.“Between 2006 and 2008, we saw the percentage of teens using alcohol decrease from 29 percent to 25 percent,’’ said Guy Cousins, Director of OSA. “This is the largest decrease in student use in the last 10 years. Success, is due, in part, to OSA’s coordination of a statewide prevention plan that encourages schools, parents, employers, law enforcement, the media, and students themselves to work together as a community to change expectations around youth drinking. When youth get a clear and consistent message that underage drinking is not OK, they are less likely to use alcohol,” he said.The Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Use Survey (MYDAUS) is used to track alcohol and other substance use among 6th through 12th graders. It was developed by the University of Washington to measure not only substance use, but also to determine how influences in the students’ community, school, home and peer environments affect their decision to engage in prohibited behaviors.The 2008 data on alcohol use were obtained from nearly 75,000 Maine students in 340 schools statewide. According to the 2008 results, factors such as parental expectations and community norms greatly influence student decisions to use alcohol:· Maine middle and high school students who don’t think they’ll be caught by their parents are nearly five times as likely to use alcohol as students who think they will get caught;.· Students who think that alcohol is easy to get are four times as likely to have had alcohol in the past 30 days as students who think alcohol is hard to obtain; · Students who don’t think that they will be caught by the police are four times as likely to drink as students who do think they will be caught by the police;.· Students who believe that their parents or other adults in their communities think it’s OK for youth to drink are three times as likely to drink.Although the data are encouraging, one out of four teenagers in Maine continue to use alcohol. These youth have an increased risk of harmful changes to their developing brains, especially in the area affecting judgment. These changes can lead to academic failure, illicit drug use, physical changes, or death from alcohol poisoning and vehicle crashes (2007 U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking).According to Shannon Bishop, Community Partnership Specialist with the Piscataquis Public Health Council, members of five local police departments and the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s met with officials from the state police, forestry department and game wardens last week to decide the best way to tackle underage drinking. “The Office of Substance Abuse Underage Drinking Prevention Grant, with funds distributed through the Piscataquis Public Health Council, ensures we can further take aim at youth alcohol use in our area. We want young people to know we as a community are paying attention.” OSA has resources available by calling, 1-800-499-0027 (In-State Only) or 207-287-8900TTY: 1-800-606-0215) The web site www.maineparents.net offers more information on how to prevent underage drinking.For more information about the Maine Youth Drug Alcohol Use Survey, please visit the MYDAUS section of the OSA web site at www.maineosa.org/data/mydaus.NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.