High school and community college grads often include alcohol in the graduation parties. An African-American substance abuse prevention coalition is encouraging the grads and their parents to look for better beverage alternatives to avoid the problems of being under the influence.
Harold Mackey, chairman of community-based HEAAL (Help Enrich African-American Lives), said sodas, lemonade and fruit-based drinks will not dampen the joy of completing a rigorous course of study and launching into a new era of a career, college or university.
“Little good can come from parties that make alcohol available to underage youth,” Mackey said. “There’s always the danger of excessive consumption that results in such things as fights and traffic crashes that spoil the celebration.”
Mackey pointed to the 2014 Arizona Youth Survey (AYS), the most recent report, which said that 40% of the high school seniors had used alcohol – far greater than any other substance. Marijuana was in second place with 20% use among 12th graders. African-Americans made up about 25% of the 11,500 seniors responding to the survey done among 8th, 10th and 12th graders every two years by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission.
“Although adverse trends have been going down slowly since 2010, underage drinking is still a significant problem and needs the attention of the parents and the community at large,” said Mackey, noting that parties and homes are the leading sources of alcohol for youth according to the 2014 AYS.
He added that the AYS report pointed out that the best factors for reducing alcohol and other substance abuses among 12th graders are parent involvement; belief in a moral order, and favorable interaction with peers.
Although community college students are a little older, many are still under the legal drinking age of 21 and many are driving, Mackey said. Alcohol-related crashes among those in the 17-19 age range are still a problem, according to the 2014 Crash Facts compiled by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and found on the website of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS). There were nearly 5,000 alcohol-related crashes in 2014, including 238 that produced fatalities and 2,118 that resulted in injuries. About 220 of those crashes involved drivers 17-19, resulting in five fatalities and nearly 80 injuries in the same age group.
HEAAL is doing more than talking about the problem. Billboards encouraging parents to keep alcohol, as well as prescription drugs, away from youth and children are up in Laveen and West Phoenix. Commercials will be run in May on radio stations 101.1 and 104.3 warning against alcohol abuse, and ads will be published in The Arizona Informant in May with the same message.
“Let’s make sure this graduation season is the happy one it is suppose to be,” Mackey said. “Let’s not add any more statistics to the negative side of the ledger.”