County's Underage Drinking Decreases
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This is an archive of an article that first appeared at http://cjonline.com/, on June 6, 2011.

The underage drinking rate for Shawnee County has decreased during the past year, according to new Kansas Communities that Care school survey results.

In 2011, 24.6 percent of sixth through 12th graders reported they consumed alcohol in the past 30 days, down from 28 percent in 2010. Additionally, binge drinking also decreased. In 2011, 12 percent reported consuming five drinks in a single setting within two weeks compared to 15.2 percent in 2010.

“This is certainly a positive step for our community,” said John Calbeck, executive director for the Shawnee Regional Prevention and Recovery Services. “Actions being taken by our agency, the Safe Streets Coalition, law enforcement, schools and our community have all most likely played a part in this decrease.”

Since 2009, Positive Action — an evidence-based prevention curriculum — has been implemented in 14 area schools and three agencies, the Topeka Police Department said Monday. Law enforcement partnerships and protocols have been strengthened; Crime Stoppers became a partner and now underage drinking can anonymously be reported for a possible reward; and organizations, such as Safe Streets Underage Drinking Task Force, have mobilized the community.

The rates for use of tobacco, marijuana, methamphetamine and other drugs also have seen slight decreases, the police department said in a news release.

The average age a child tries alcohol and marijuana is 13 in Shawnee County — age 12 for cigarettes.

“Alcohol and other drug use can have irreparable harm on our youth,” Calbeck said. “Teen brains aren’t fully developed — the use of substances can interrupt the development process and the likelihood of addiction to substances also increases.

"It’s important for parents and guardians to stay in tune with what their kids are doing, know their friends and have regular conversations about your expectations regarding drug use. It takes everyone — family, schools, law enforcement, social agencies and the community — working together to reduce underage drinking and other drug use amongst our children.”

Kansas Communities That Care is a survey administered across the state to students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades. All five Shawnee County school districts participated.

The survey tracks teen use of harmful substances, such as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. It also provides a baseline for teen participation in, perception of, and attitudes toward prosocial and antisocial behavior with peers, school, family and community levels.

The survey also provides a measurable level of risk and protective factors that influence behavior, attitudes and opinions of Kansas teens.

Shawnee County data can be viewed online at http://ctcdata.org