Conference Searches for Solutions to Stop Underage Drinking

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KENNESAW, Ga. – Convening policy-makers, law enforcement officials and representatives from the courts, The Cobb Alcohol Task Force on Monday hosted a conference to develop plans to reduce underage drinking.

The daylong Justice System Response to Underage Drinking: Roadmap for Improvement held at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, brought the “significant players to the table,” according to Alisa Bennett-Hart, Cobb Alcohol Taskforce’s public relations specialist.

“Sometimes we have to get everybody together to listen to what they have to say,” Bennet-Hart said.  “This [conference] is us listening.”

The morning began with presentations and an hour-long roundtable panel discussion by a mixture of experts from law enforcement, the courts and advocates.

After lunch, participants split into smaller breakout sessions where they could discuss potential strategies.  Each session included a mixture of law enforcement, judicial representatives and policy makers.

“We would have liked to have seen more court personnel and more policy makers,” Bennett-Hart said.

The theme throughout the day was the danger alcohol poses to kids.

Alcohol is “the worst drug of all,” Dr. Greg Raduka said during his presentation.  “We’ve seen through the hype of alcohol.”

The hype, Raduka said, has hidden alcohol’s true power.  In fact, he said, if alcohol were a new product it would be classified as a Schedule 2 controlled substance along with cocaine, heroin and methadone.

Part of the problem, according to Special Agent Nancy McGee of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, is that kids aren’t drinking the same size drinks that their parents drank when they were teenagers.  Container sizes have increased substantially in the past 20 years, growing from the traditional 12-ounce container to drinks as large as 24 or 40 ounces.

“If you ask them [kids] how many drinks they have had they may say two,” McGee said.  “In reality, when you take into account the size of the drink, they may have drunk twice as much.”

Retired Judge Ronald E. Bogle reminded the audience that a “responsible” amount of drinking means two drinks for an adult male and one drink for an adult female.  But kids are binge drinking far more than that.

“Kids aren’t drinking by the same measure as adults,” Bogle said.  “We have reached a point where this is a public health crisis.”

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