KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Agencies across the state are partnering this back-to-school season to send an important message regarding the dangers of underage alcohol drinking.
According to a survey from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, for students in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades, the average age of first alcohol consumption is 13 and a half years.
On the other hand, the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey from Knox County Schools shows more than one in six of our high schoolers has consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. Some of them have even reported binge drinking.
Courtney Fuson with the Metro Drug Coalition in Knoxville said, even though there has been a 12% decrease in the last year, those statistics are still too high. She added parents can play a big role in lowering those numbers.
So, parents, here are some things you should be looking out for in your children when it comes to underage drinking:
1. Changes in mood or behaviors
2. Declining school attendance or academic performance
3. Physical symptoms, like slurred speech and red eyes
Fuson explained many of these things could be signs of other problems, like mental health issues, which is why the Metro Drug Coalition encourages parents to have early and often conversations with their children.
"Research tells us that teens actually do believe that their parents should have a say on whether or not they drink alcohol," she added. "And, if they believe that their parents would be upset if they drink, they are far less likely to drink. So it may not seem like they are listening but they are, so parents can play a large role in preventing that early alcohol use."
Fuson said the Youth Risk Behavior Survey also showed that almost 40% of students reported receiving alcohol from someone they know. That is also part of why they target parents in their prevention campaigns as well.
The Metro Drug Coalition also goes into schools to educate students on the impact alcohol has on their bodies at such a young age. It also works with the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the Knoxville Police Department on compliance checks and it also provides resources and support for businesses that do not pass those compliance checks.