Study: Underage drinking in Kremmling goes from bad to worse | SkyHiNews.com
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Study: Underage drinking in Kremmling goes from bad to worse

by Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

(Editor’s note: This is the second article in a series on underage drinking in Grand County and efforts to bring it under control.)

If the scientific surveys are correct, then the problem of underage drinking in the Kremmling area is not only bad, it has gotten progressively worse in recent years.

The Social Development Group of the University of Washington conducted the youth surveys in 2002, 2004 and 2006 for the Kremmling Communities That Care (CTC), which is a local organization working help youth and families in the local area.

When the first survey was taken in 2002, students in the West Grand School District were asked about binge drinking (five or more alcoholic drinks during a single session over the previous two-week period). The results were that 21.2 percent of eighth graders, 28 percent of 10th graders and 29.2 percent of 12th graders admitted to binge drinking.

All of those binge-drinking percentages for West Grand students rose in the 2004 survey ” 31.8 percent for eighth graders, 46.7 percent for 10th graders and 53.8 percent among 12th graders.

Those already high percentages for binge drinking took an even bigger jump in 2006. Eighth graders were now at 35.7 percent while 50.0 percent of 10th graders admitted binge drinking. A total of 59.1 percent of 12th graders reported binge drinking during the previous two-week period.

While binge drinking is the extreme of alcohol use by West Grand students, the overall use of alcohol by them is even higher. In the 2006 survey results, 77.3 percent of high school seniors admitted drinking over a 30-day period. For 10th graders, 50 percent said they consumed alcohol while 51.9 percent of eighth graders admitted they had also.

Cynthia Lynch, CTC Community Coordinator, vouched for the scientific accuracy of the University of Washington survey. She described the Kremmling results as “pristine” because of the relatively isolated location of Kremmling in relationship to other communities and its generally stable population.

“The kids in the 2002 study are the same ones in the 2006 study,” Lynch said. “We see the same kids progressing from eighth grade to seniors in high school.”

Over that same time period, CTC was working in the Kremmling community to reduce a number of “risk factors” for children and families. Progress was made in improving a number of areas such as family conflict, antisocial behavior and parental attitudes in dealing with children. However, the results for alcohol use were also rising at the same time.

“Frankly, we’re baffled by this,” Lynch said. “While these risk factors are going down, the behaviors in alcohol use by children are still seeing an upward trend.”

While the scientific surveys do not give a reason why alcohol use and binge drinking are on the rise among Kremmling youth, Lynch believes the problem lies in adult attitudes toward underage drinking.

“We feel the problem is that permitting kids to drink is a community norm,” she said. “I hear the same old argument all the time: ‘That’s what kids do. We did it when we were kids. Now they’re doing it.’ But the problem with that attitude is that it actually results in more kids drinking today then when we adults were teenagers years ago.”

This permissive attitude has gone so far that parents and other adults are actually “hosting” alcohol parties for teenagers in local homes and on ranches. The rationale used by these adults, Lynch explained, is that it “keeps the kids safe” because they are not allowed to drink and drive.

“The thought of any teens drinking and driving is very scary,” Lynch said. “But the parents and adults who think they are protecting kids in a safe environment by holding these parties are forgetting the other negative behaviors from alcohol use.”

Lynch said teenagers are going through stage of their lives when they are vulnerable and can make unwise choices that can have lasting consequences.

“When you’re a teenager, it’s a tough age of your life to make decisions,” she said. “But to make those kinds of decisions under the influence of alcohol can result in decisions that you might not have made otherwise.”

Lynch pointed to lasting consequences such as entering into a unwanted sexual relationship resulting in pregnancy, violent or dangerous behavior, and the use of illegal drugs.

To come up with ways to change those “community norms” and other attitudes that are contributing to the rise in youth drinking in Kremmling and the rest of Grand County, Kremmling Communities That Care is joining with Grand Futures, the Underage Drinking Task Force and other local organizations in sponsoring a Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) seminar that is scheduled for next week in Kremmling.

The CMCA seminar will be held Thursday and Friday, Nov. 8-9 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Kremmling. Everyone is invited to attend.


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