Alcohol is a dangerous drug even though our society mistakenly views it as separate from other drugs. Some parents are actually relieved to discover their kids are “only” drinking and not smoking pot or swallowing pills. But alcohol is a drug and a depressant, and it causes more deaths among young people than any other drug. Because it is legal and accepted by the general population, many people are unaware that it attacks the nervous system, and over a period of time, can shorten life.

To begin with, the need for preventing alcohol and other drug problems is clear when examining the statistics:  

  • Nearly 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die each year from underage drinking.
  • In 2006, nearly 1,900 deaths involving people under the age of 21 were the result of alcohol-induced automobile collisions (up from 1,400 in 1999).
  • 21 percent of the murders committed by young people were caused by alcohol.
  • It is estimated that nearly 1 million nonfatal injuries each year are caused by underage drunk drivers. There are also approximately 1 million assaults committed by youth under the influence of alcohol; 40,000 cases of alcohol poisoning; and 5,100 injuries related to drunken suicide attempts by those under 21.

What do you say to your kids about drugs through your example? Do you present an underlying message that you think they are not so bad? Are your children seeing your attitude as one of indifference? What drugs do you take? Reaching for a Valium or misusing sleeping pills are all part of a drug-taking picture a child forms, and you are the central actor. Are you willing to give up such things so your child can be free of drug and alcohol problems?

Troubled kids almost always point out the problems of excess in their parents. They say things such as, “My father doesn’t drink, but you should see how much he eats. He’s no better than I am. I use drugs, and he uses food.” “My mother doesn’t drink, but every time there’s a crisis, she has to take some kind of pill. Why should she get on me if she has to have her own drugs?”

Whether it is excessive food, medication, or burying ourselves in our work, we parents must examine our compulsive behaviors. Our kids use them as part of a denial system that prevents change. But even more important, they model our bad behaviors.

The Best Alcohol Education

Kids are confronted with alcohol every day. It is a common topic of conversation at school and routine behavior for many kids in junior high and high school. So naturally, your children are going to be interested in your drinking behavior. They will watch clues that drinking is okay.

If you have been making mistakes in this area, it is not too late to stop and let your children see what it is like to start over. No lesson is more powerful than the example of an adult changing for the better.

The Power of a Positive Example

Many years ago Peter Marshall, former chaplain to the United States Senate, preached a sermon that had a profound influence on my (Jim’s) life. In his sermon, he told a story that helped me make a decision to abstain from all alcohol.

He told of a minister who was asked to make a patriotic address at a dinner attended by many prominent government and business officials. It was a swank affair, and cocktails were flowing freely. Mr. Jones, who sat immediately to the minister’s left, was greatly enjoying the alcohol. When Mr. Jones noticed the minister had an untouched glass of champagne in front of him, Mr. Jones stated, “Say, you haven’t touched yours. Why not? Guess I’m rude to mention it, but surely you haven’t any scruples against champagne?”

The minister replied, “No, you’re not rude to ask at all.” He went on to say, “I have a steady stream of people coming to my study who need help. Their lives are all messed up, and I guess you’d be surprised to know that most of them, in one way or another, have liquor involved in the mess. To drink this glass of champagne is no sin. However, because of so many who cannot control their alcohol use, I choose to be self-disciplined. I would never want anyone to justify his alcohol abuse by saying, ‘Well, the minister drinks.’ So I’ve chosen to abstain. It’s not a matter of sin, but rather of example.”