Earlier this year, a 17-year-old male student in Bernards Township, New Jersey was arrested for driving under the influence on his way to school. Police said his blood alcohol content was .27 percent, which is more than three times higher than the legal limit for adults. But there seems to be a silver lining, as the incident has not only caused a lot of controversy among the town’s parents, but also much-needed discussion in the community.
Sad but true, teens are charged with DUIs every day. What makes this story so interesting is that the driver reportedly played on the undefeated Ridge High football team—the same team that was honored by the driver’s school board later that week following the drunk driving incident. But because the school board did not want to take anything away from the team’s success, the incident was not mentioned during the public portion of the meeting. Parents who knew of the incident have since voiced their frustrations.
According to the New Jersey Hills, one township mother said, “[Drinking] seems to be a topic no one ever wants to discuss! I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to talk about this. If we continue to sweep it under the rug will that make it go away?’’ And another said, “‘…drugs have no boundaries and sometimes it’s upper middle class kids that have the most issues because they feel like they have a protective bubble around them.’”
Underage Drinking Rages On
Whether it stems from peer pressure, stress at home or the desire to experiment, teen drinking remains a major problem all across the country—and its impact can be extremely dangerous, and deadly. Take these statistics from the CDC:
- Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs.
- Alcohol is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth.
- On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.
When Parents Come Together
In the days following the incident, Bernards Township mothers flooded the Basking Ridge Moms Facebook page with concerned comments regarding underage drinking in their community, and how it’s seemingly going unnoticed and unaddressed. Adding fuel to the fire, a site administrator removed these important comments and discussions.
One mother says, “I have been trying to talk about this for years and people are wearing their blinders. Yes we have a serious drug problem here in our beautiful towns and it is not going to go away unless we take a stand (to) take back our town and our children.’’
When teens come together, their voices are more clearly heard—and the same goes for parents, who can work together to create the changes they want to see in their own communities. The mothers of Bernards Township are speaking up, and should continue to do so, regardless of whatever backlash they face or how protective the bubble created around them by township leaders. The NJ Hills writes, “While one parent who is working to keep their kid drug-free may be an embarrassment to their teen, if all the parents are being as proactive it will be better received by all the teens.”
Parents should also stay educated about the trends in adolescent drug use, as well as signs and symptoms of underage drinking. These warning signs may include:
- Finding alcohol among his or her belongings
- The smell of alcohol on the breath
- Sudden academic and/or behavioral issues
- Changes in social circles
- Loss of interest in activities/hobbies
- Changes in appearance/hygiene
- Impaired concentration, memory and/or speech
If you suspect your child is abusing alcohol, please seek immediate help. Call us today to learn about our adolescent treatment program.