It's kind of a big deal

A student survey in Washington County, TN indicated that less than half of middle and high school students have talked to a parent about drugs or alcohol in the year prior to the survey.  Research indicates that parents and other trusted adults are THE NUMBER ONE INFLUENCE in the choice to use drugs or alcohol.  

Children whose parents talked to them "a lot" were 37 percent less likely to use drugs than children whose parents "never" brought up the subject, according to a survey by the National Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education.

From "Time To Talk" website:

Research shows that kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use. By talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol, you can help them make better choices and live safer, healthier lives.     

 A qualitative research study conducted by Amica Insurance confirmed that teenagers who talk with them, versus talk at them, may be less at risk to engage in harmful behavior involving alcohol. What's more, teens said they would be more apt not to drink and drive if they had heard directly from their parents how important they are to them.                                                               

Not sure what to say?  Here is a GUIDE that will help you to talk to children from preschool to college. 


But I drank when I was underage, and I am okay.  What is the big deal?

First, you may not be aware of the potential that was destroyed by your drinking in high school.  The damage is compared to making a B instead of an A.  However that difference might have been just enough of a difference.  For your child it might be enough difference to affect a skill set needed to pursue an career or field of interest.  Scans on students who reported binge drinking  as little as one time a month showed permanent destruction of white matter in the brain.  

As the community and professionals who protect it become more aware of the potential harm, they take steps to enforce and protect.  Underage drinking at times only meant that the drinkers got their alcohol poured out and sent home or a parent called.  Now it can mean legal charges, fines, community service and probation.  

For parents or other adults, this means legal charges if your provide alcohol or allow someone underage access.  A  more recent "social host" law and Tennessee can result in charges for providing a space (your home, field, a hotel room)  INCLUDING the loss of your driving privileges. 

Some parents think that providing alcohol to teens at home decreases the risk for continued drinking as teens get older, and subsequent drinking problems later in life. 

The opposite is true – parents should be aware that supplying alcohol to minors actually increases, rather than decreases the risk for continued drinking in the teenage years and leads to subsequent problem drinking later in life.[1]

Young people from European cultures whose parents give them alcohol at an early age learn to drink more responsibly than their American counterparts

 A greater percentage of European youth report drinking regularly (in the past 30 days) versus American youth, and for a majority of European countries, a greater percentage of young people report having been intoxicated before the age of 13 than is the case in the U.S.[2] The World Health Organization cites global longitudinal studies that found the earlier young people start drinking, the more likely they are to experience alcohol-related injury and alcohol dependence later in life.[3]

Some parents believe that being ‘too strict’ about adolescent drinking during high school will cause teens to drink more when they first leave the home and do not have as much parental oversight.  

New research from The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) reveals that teens who perceive their parents to be more permissive about alcohol use are MORE likely to abuse alcohol and to use other drugs.[4]

Parents who serve alcohol to teenagers at home are under no legal jeopardy:   

A majority of states have civil and or criminal penalties for adults who serve alcohol to underage kids at home.

[1] Dawson, et al., 2008; Grant and Dawson, 1997; Hingson et al., 2006; Winters and Lee, 2008

[2] U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, “Youth Drinking Rates and Problems: A Comparison of European Countries and the U.S. and Kelly, Chan, O’Flaherty, 2012”

[3] Global Status Report: Alcohol and Young People, 2001

[4] Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, 2012

[5]  All statutes, regulations and case law that were centered on social hosting of alcohol parties were included in the creation of the tool.



Share these facts

By waiting until 21 to drink, a young person decreases chances of permanent damage to the brain and the risk of ongoing addiction.

Adolescents that drink perform as much as 10 % lower on tests involving concentration and memory.  For girls, it affects  

performance in areas of Math and Science.  This damage is permanent.  Brain scans show that the white matter in the brain is reduced in adolescents that drink regularly as little as one time per month.

Those who start drinking by age 15 and through adolescence are 5 times more likely to be addicted to alcohol or other drugs as an adult.

____________, I don't want you or any of your friends to be drunk, stoned, high or in trouble with the law.  I care about your health and safety.  

For older children... 

At the very least say: 

____________ (name) I care about you.  I would like you to stay away from drugs, alcohol and negative influences.  I want you to be happy, healthy and safe.

Teen Brain at

Great series of videos and interactive web pages on a teen brain (spanish)

The Parent Toolkit (spanish)

Talking with Kids about Tough Issues

Local Resources: 

Besides TALKING with the young people you care about,another protective factors are keeping your child in school and INVOLVED with sports, or other activities that are supervised in a safe positive environment.  Some are provided by coalition partners.

Rise UP!  The Refuge

Boys and Girls Club Johnson City / Washington County

Carver Recreation Center

Coalition for Kids - The Rock

Girls Inc.

Depending upon your needs if you need some assistance talking to your child or if you are concerned about your child's alcohol and drug use we encourage you to seek assistance.  Private counselors are available, and services are available through:

Frontier Health

Comprehensive Community Services

This project is funded under a Grant Contract with the State of Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.