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Underage Drinking, It’s Not Just Kids’ Stuff

By: Porter County Substance Abuse Council Last Updated: October 17, 2012

Porter-CountyJudge Linda Chezem spoke to the Porter County Substance Abuse Council at yesterday’s monthly council meeting. Chezem is a professor, Youth Development and Agriculture Education, College of Agriculture, Purdue University, senior research fellow of the Sagamore Institute and researcher for various state and federal agencies dealing with underage drinking. The State of Indiana is working on a grant for federal dollars to combat underage drinking. Judge Chezem is assisting with that effort.

Federal dollars for preventing underage drinking were cut last year. Prior to the cut dollars were awarded to States in a non-competitive manner. Congress, after cutting the funds, has made the dollars available via awards based on grant proposals. Judge Chezem is spearheading the effort to develop the research to support the grant request for the State of Indiana. She is especially interested in local efforts to combat underage drinking and how to effectively work with those who supply the alcohol to the minors.

The costs of underage drinking are high and varied. One of the biggest costs of underage drinking is the cost to the adolescent’s development, especially if engaging in binge drinking. In the discussion following Chezem’s presentation John Hunter, Superintendent at Union Township School Corporation, noted that binge drinking in Porter County is high. New research indicates that binge drinking by adolescents has a severe negative effect on the adolescent brain. Research by Aaron White shows that memory is adversely affected by binge drinking and that repeated exposure to alcohol will alter the adolescent’s response to alcohol later on in life. Adolescents that abuse alcohol will have lasting negative effects including memory loss, lower cognitive abilities, sexual assaults, violence, etc.

Parents are the best defense to ensure binge drinking does not occur. The Partnership for Drug-Free America estimates that parents who talk to their children about alcohol use/misuse will have children that are 42% less likely to drink. Porter County Judge of the Superior Court William Alexa noted during the discussion that some parents are unaware of resources in the community. The Substance Abuse Council is seeking information regarding support groups in our community. It was noted in the meeting that the police departments in Porter County are “unbelievably helpful” in dealing with underage drinking.

Anyone interested in receiving more information about underage drinking or providing suggestions and/or comments to Judge Chezem about her research can contact the Porter County Substance Abuse Council at 219-462-0946.

Dedicated to working for a drug-free Porter County, the Substance Abuse Council is a coalition of treatment facilities, education providers, members of the justice community and concerned citizens. A member of the Governor’s Commission for a Drug Free Indiana, the Council has been providing funding to community resources for over fifteen years. The Council’s next meeting is November 8 at 7:30 a.m. at the Valparaiso Library.