Alcohol addiction is running rampant in Arizona. In fact, the state is ranked fourth in the nation for fatal binge drinking, with youth at the greatest risk for alcohol abuse. Alcohol use by young people is not only dangerous, but directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other detrimental outcomes.

St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center is bringing awareness to the dangers of alcohol addiction, especially underage alcohol use and abuse, and encouraging individuals and their families to get help during Alcohol Awareness Month, which is themed Talk Early, Talk Often: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Alcohol Use.

In Arizona, alcohol is consumed more frequently than all illicit drugs combined and is most associated with injury or death, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. And the younger the individual, the more likely they are to become addicted – those drinking before the age of 15 have a 40 percent chance of developing an addiction, compared to only 7 percent for those over the age of 21.

As director of Therapy Services at St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center, Chip Coffey sees addiction challenges young adults and youth face on a daily basis.

“Adolescence is typically a time of pushing limits and heightened risk-taking, leaving many parents unsure of the role they should take in helping their children stay safe while coming into their own,” said Coffey. “Parents, schools, medical professional and community organizations provide gateways to providing children and teens who have developed an alcohol dependency access to the help they need.”

St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center has put together a quiz to help parents navigate teen alcohol addiction. With questions that assess factors such as social interaction, personality fluctuation, overall wellness changes and school grades, parents can get an idea of potential problems and seek access to help.

“Although addiction is an enormous problem in our state, there is tremendous opportunity to educate people about treatment and prevention of alcoholism, particularly among youth,” said Coffey.

The Behavioral Health Center offers a full spectrum of inpatient and outpatient services and individualized treatment plans. Among the advice offered to parents:

  1. Learn how to talk to children about drinking and drug use. Parents and adults have more influence than they think.
  2. Send a consistent, clear message that underage drinking is not acceptable behavior or a “rite of passage.”
  3. Get to know your child’s friends and help them find ways to avoid drinking when they feel pressured by peers. Help them decide how they will exit a situation that is uncomfortable or unsafe.
  4. Be home for all parties and require the parties to be free of alcohol.
  5. Get help if you suspect your child may be abusing alcohol.