Research shows that alcohol and drug prevention need reworking

Monticello -- Health administrators say today's children are not relating to warnings against alcohol and drug abuse, so they are exploring new methods to spread awareness.

It's a national issue that's sparking local interest and Tuesday evening, parents and children gathered at the Kirby Medical Center in Monticello for a lesson on how to cut back on underage drinking and other gateway drugs.

"There was a point in the last year where 38 percent of Illinois eighth graders drank alcohol," said Ten Penesis, industry education manager for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission.

A statistic that suggests that prevention programs of the past are not working on the children of today.

"There was a commercial where they would say, this is your brain, now this is your brain on drugs and they would show the egg sizzling in the pan," said David King, executive director of the Piatt County Mental Health Center. "And what they used to do basically was make fun of it: say this your brain, now this is your brain on drugs with a side of bacon."

So instead of using scare tactics, addiction specialists are focusing on what they call "positive peer pressure."

"It's called the "Your Reactions Matter" program," said Penesis. "We have youth throughout the state going out to liquor retailers and posting education materials and basically the kids are educating parents."

Prompting parents to ask some questions of their own. The answer Scott Burnsmier came up with was open conversation.

"It's a good point of communication at the dinner table," said Burnsmier, a father of two. "I think it's a good opportunity to talk about what's happening."

Because even though his daughter is in fifth grade, she isn't too young to know that underage drinking and drug abuse are a problem.

"I don't know really what goes on," said Burnsmier's daughter Grace. "But I don't think that that doesn't go on."

But putting a stop starts with setting an example. Research shows that kids who use gateway drugs like alcohol, marijuana or tobacco typically start around the age of 14 or 15. However, prevention efforts are targeted at children as young as 11 and as old as 18.
Current Conditions