HARTFORD - Gov. M. Jodi Rell is reminding parents and teens that it is illegal for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol and any adult to allow parties where underage drinking is occurring.
This reminder comes on the heels of the governor proclaiming the month Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month in Connecticut.
As Connecticut youth face the temptations and pressures of the punchbowl-spiked holidays, two new studies find that teenagers and young adults who binge drink are at increased risk of developing chronic health problems later in life.
"We continue to see the tragic consequences of our youth drinking too much, too soon," said Gov. Rell, co-chairwoman of The Governor's Prevention Partnership.
"Adults need to draw the line against underage drinking, not just for the holidays, but year round. The more we learn of its detrimental effects, the clearer it is that reducing underage drinking should be viewed by all as a public health priority."
In addition to the evolving body of evidence on the detrimental effects of alcohol on still developing brains, new research highlights the long term physical effects of binge drinking on teenagers and young adults.
Youth who binge drink are more likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes as they get older than those who drink moderately or start drinking at a later age. The higher risk was found to remain even if the binge drinking is curtailed later on.
Teenagers who binge drink are also more than twice as likely to become alcoholics by the time they reach 30 than non-binge drinkers.
These findings complement recent studies showing that drinking under the age of 21 can permanently impair the brain, causing memory and attention loss.
"As adults we need to change the way we think of underage drinking, and we need to examine the cues we give to adolescents," said Jill Spineti, president of The Governor's Prevention Partnership.
"Underage drinking, especially the turbo party culture that encourages teens to drink too much, too fast, is only as inevitable as we allow it to be. Parents are the leading influence in the decisions their children make."
The Governor's Prevention Partnership offers tips for parents this holiday weekend and for the upcoming New Year's weekend.
1. Don't relax your rules just because it's the holiday season. Kids still need limits and close monitoring. Expectations may need to be renegotiated or reiterated for college students returning home.
2. If your child attends a party, make sure alcohol will not be served and that partygoers will be properly supervised. Be available to provide a ride home if something unexpected happens.
3. If you leave for a night of celebration, be aware that unsupervised kids are at risk for alcohol use. Set up a reliable method for checking up on your child's whereabouts and activities.
4. If you host adult parties in your home and plan to serve alcohol, keep a clear head so that you can supervise any teens who may be present. Set a good example: drink responsibly and don't allow intoxicated guests to drive. Make sure any alcohol in your home is not accessible to your children.
5. Keep kids away from adult parties where there's a risk of witnessing guests overindulging. If appropriate and feasible, send your kids to another safe, supervised setting while your adult party is going on.
6. Be a good role model. Show your kids that you know your own limits, always designate a driver and never let someone drive away from your home intoxicated.
State surveys underscore that Connecticut youth are both drinking and driving impaired at troubling levels.
Nearly half (45 percent) of students in Connecticut's public high schools report having drunk alcohol at least once in the prior month, according to the 2005 Connecticut School Health Survey.
Overall, 28 percent of high school students and 40 percent of seniors reported binge drinking: consuming five or more drinks within a couple of hours, within the past 30 days.
The survey also found that white high school students are nearly twice as likely as their black classmates to binge drink: 31 percent to 18 percent.
The study found that two in 10 Connecticut high school students, more than 19,000, report having recently driven a vehicle while drinking alcohol.
By the time they reach senior year, 34 percent students report having driven under the influence of alcohol.
The incidence of college students driving under the influence of alcohol and or drugs rose 18 percent between 2001 and 2004, according to the State Epidemiological Workgroup.
The Governor's Prevention Partnership is a not-for-profit collaboration of state and business leaders providing prevention resources in schools and communities to keep Connecticut youth safe, successful and drug-free.
Those seeking information about prevention initiative may call Celine Provini, program director at 860-523-8042 or visit www.preventionworksct.org.