SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – In honor of National Alcohol Awareness Month, 47 community organizations across Illinois are hosting town hall meetings in April and May to discuss underage drinking. The town hall meetings, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), will bring together community leaders and residents to discuss the problem of underage drinking in their community and work together to find solutions.
“Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among youth in Illinois,” said Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler. “Underage drinking poses a serious threat to the health and safety of teenagers across our state. The SAMHSA town hall meetings are an effective way to facilitate discussion on underage drinking issues in different communities across the state and develop prevention strategies to protect our youth.”
Now in its 28th year, National Alcohol Awareness Month takes place every April to encourage families and communities to reflect on the societal and health effects of alcohol consumption and promote drinking prevention for adolescents.
In 2012, 41 percent of high school seniors in the U.S. drank alcohol in the last month. In Illinois, this percentage was even higher, with 47 percent of seniors reporting use in the last 30 days. Drinking alcohol is particularly dangerous for teenagers because they are still learning how to make responsible decisions and alcohol impairs judgment. Teens that drink are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like unprotected sex and driving under the influence. In 2012, a quarter of 10th-12th graders in Illinois reported that they had driven a car while under the influence of alcohol.
Underage drinking is associated with an increased risk of negative outcomes like poor academic performance, violence and sexual assault, and serious car accidents and fatalities. In 2010, underage drinking cost the state of Illinois $2.9 billion in legal costs, medical bills, and other expenses that went towards the aftermath of adolescent alcohol use.
The theme of the 2014 meetings is “Our Town, Our Health. Our Future.” These events are open to anyone and are free of charge. To find a town hall meeting in your area, please visit https://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/townhallmeetings/. For more information on Alcohol Awareness month and ways to get involved, visit http://www.ncadd.org/index.php/programs-a-services/alcohol-awareness-month.