On February 9, 2012, District Attorney David F. Capeless spoke to over 60 Rotarian’s at the Berkshire Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield. The Rotary Club invited the District Attorney to talk about Underage Drinking, focusing particularly on the legal and medical facts along with growing teen realities and public perceptions.
Our highways and hospitals are lined with young people who made poor, even fatal, choices about alcohol. Still many more suffer silently, unable to meet their own life goals or to realize the promise their friends, parents, and other caring adults see in them. Understanding teen drinking readies the many people needed to prevent it and the Rotary and other community groups continue to be a great avenue to get this important safety message out to the community.
The presentation provided supporting elements of prevention strategies that focus on protecting youth: finding healthy alternatives, peer involvement, and receiving positive messages from adults. Also presented were national and local use rates and correcting misperceptions around scientific, medical and legal consequences of the use of alcohol by those under 21.
Underage drinking is a critical health problem affecting communities all over the nation, and Berkshire County is no different. The statistics are disturbing. Alcohol is the number one drug of choice for America's teens and is used more than any illicit drug. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), alcoholic beverages are implicated in the three top causes of teen deaths: accidents (particularly traffic fatalities and drowning), suicide and homicide. Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are 4 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and are 2½ times more likely to become alcohol abusers than those that begin drinking at age 21.
The Rotary members are stakeholders in the lives of children and this presentation provided them with the knowledge that their role is an important component in the prevention effort in our community.