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No Ka Oi Health

The “new normal” finds us looking at a time of uncertainty ahead. With summer coming to a close and school soon to reopen, let’s be responsible in the prevention of underage drinking. Due to COVID-19, there is increased risk of using alcohol as a coping mechanism, to deal with the stress. Youth are at risk, as well as adults.

When crises happen, our drinking patterns sometimes permanently change. Many in our community may be laying the foundation for problem drinking and alcohol dependence right now.

There is more alcohol available to adults and youth right now, due to allowing home delivery and takeout of wine, beer and cocktails. Home delivery increases alcohol availability for adults, as well as youth.

When alcohol is more available, people drink more.

Youth buy into the idea that alcohol is safe, fun, sexy and a must for socializing. Right now, while they are stuck at home with increased alcohol access, there is a recipe for alcohol-related problems, including domestic violence, sexual assault, alcohol poisoning and drunken driving.

During this time of COVID, policies to prevent underage drinking like a social host ordinance may be even more important. It’s easy for people to want to start drinking more or even having parties, and we need less of both right now. House parties, including family gatherings as well as unsupervised get-togethers, are the most common place our young people drink, according to a recent survey by the Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth.

There is a misconception that house parties are safe, but this is far from the truth. The consequences of house parties that go wrong are much too great for our youth. Their futures may be crushed forever, as we have seen in our own community year after year. How easy is it to go to a party, get peer pressured and face the danger of binge drinking? Many of us have been there, or remember a time in our own youth where this happened to us.

We know when binge drinking happens, your child will be at risk for fights, sexual assaults, car crashes and alcohol poisoning.

In 2018-19, 450 youths from across Maui County reported:

• Eighteen percent know a peer who has been sexually assaulted at a house party.

• Nearly 30 percent of youth who attend them know a peer who has been in a car crash because they drank alcohol at a house party.

• Half of youth who drink at house parties report that fighting is common.

Parents please talk with your child and while it might not seem like it, your child really is listening and needs to know you care. After all, parents are the leading influence on their teen’s decisions about alcohol. Talking with your kids about alcohol early and often is the best way to keep them safe. We all need to take our minds off of this stressful time and celebrate with our families. Let’s be mindful of what our youth are involved in as we model how to handle these stresses.

* Jan Shishido is a member of the Maui Coalition for Drug Free Youth and an advocate for the safety of our youth. No Ka Oi Health is published on the second and fourth Thursday of the month, when available, by the state Department of Health.

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