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Youth Alcohol Binges on the Rise, Health Expert Warns
It’s time for Seventh-day Adventists to do more in getting the word out about the dangers of alcohol use and binge drinking among young people, according to DeWitt Williams, health ministries director for the church in North America.
Williams points out that the alcohol industry spends a staggering $11 million a day on advertising in the United States. As one of the few church groups to take a proactive stand against alcohol use, Adventists have a responsibility to step up their public response on this issue, he says.
“The key is to begin anti-alcohol education early,” says Williams. “Grades one through four–that’s the age to target prevention. The average individual who starts or experiments with alcohol is around 12 years of age, and by 13 or 14 has become increasingly involved. Studies show the younger a person starts, the more likely he or she is to become addicted.”
Williams’ comments were prompted by statistics reported in the March issue of the Journal of American College Health showing that 44 percent of college students can be classified as “binge drinkers.” Williams cautions that alcohol use is not confined to secular campuses.
In 1990, the education department’s “Value Genesis” study found that 10 percent of Adventist church members use alcohol, and 25 percent of members under the age of 25 use alcohol. Williams says this figure for Adventist young people is “concerning.”
“At least at an Adventist college it’s underground,” he adds. “It’s still taboo. But 50 percent of our young people go to non-Adventist campuses where it’s out in the open.”
“My concern is that the church needs to do more in getting the word out about alcohol and other drugs,” says Williams. “Twenty years ago every church conference had a temperance department. Later it was combined with the health ministries department. But now many conferences don’t have a health worker on staff, and the message is not getting to our young people.”
Youth alcohol binges are an increasing concern outside North America as well. According to the results of a British survey released last week, a quarter of 13 and 14-year-olds in the United Kingdom say they’ve had at least five alcoholic drinks in a single session, and 27 percent of those aged 15 and 16 reported three or more binges in the past month.
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