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September is National Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Awareness Month

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Substance Misuse Among Pre-teens and Teens.

As much as parents may not like to think about it, the truth is that many kids and teens try alcohol during their high school and college years, long before it's legal for them to drink it. Research has shown that nearly 80% of high school kids have tried alcohol. Alcohol interferes with a person's perception of reality and ability to make good decisions. This can be particularly hazardous for kids and teens who have less problem-solving and decision-making experience.

Short-term effects of drinking include:

  • Distorted vision, hearing and coordination;
  • Altered perceptions and emotions;
  • Impaired judgment, which can lead to accidents;
  • Bad breath; and
  • Hangovers.

Long-term effects include:

  • Cirrhosis and cancer of the liver;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Serious vitamin deficiencies;
  • Stomach ailments;
  • Heart and central nervous system damage; and
  • High risk for overdosing.

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Childhood is a time of learning and discovery, so it's important to encourage kids to ask questions, even ones that might be hard to answer. Open, honest, age-appropriate communication now sets the stage for your kids to come to you later with other difficult topics or problems.

Teach kids a variety of approaches to deal with offers of alcohol:

  • Encourage them to ask questions. If a drink of any kind is offered, they should ask, "What is it?" and "Where did you get it?"
  • Teach them to say "no, thanks" when the drink offered is an alcoholic one.
  • Remind them to leave any uncomfortable situation. Make sure they have money for transportation or a phone number where you or another responsible adult can be reached.

Fortunately, parents can do much to protect their kids from using and abusing alcohol:

  • Be a good role model. Consider how your use of alcohol or medications may influence your kids.
  • Educate yourself about alcohol so you can be a better teacher. Read and collect information that you can share with kids and other parents.
  • Teach kids to manage stress in healthy ways, such as by seeking help from a trusted adult or engaging in a favorite activity.

Set a good example of the behavior that you want your kids to demonstrate. This is especially true in the preschool years when kids tend to imitate adults' actions as a way of learning. So, by being active, eating healthy and drinking responsibly, parents teach their kids important lessons early on.

To access the full article on alcohol misuse among kids, click here.

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