The holiday season is upon us! It is a special time in which many adults may find their homes full of friends and family, especially children and youth.

With most getting about a month off from school for the holidays, there are some important things parents must do to prevent children and adolescents from misusing alcohol or prescription drugs by easily accessing these substances at home.

According to the 2016 Texas School Survey (TSS), about half of the students surveyed between grades 7 and 12 reported having ever tried alcohol. The same survey revealed that four out of ten students thought it would be somewhat or very easy to get alcohol if they wanted some. The Texas Dept. of Transportation’s statistics for last year’s holiday season, Dec. 1 2015 – Jan. 1 2016, are alarming. There were 2,374 alcohol-related traffic crashes in Texas, resulting in 102 fatalities and 205 serious injuries. That averages to 74 alcohol-related traffic crashes every day during the holiday season!

A common myth is that if adults drink, then kids should be able to drink too. In most occasions, alcohol is not seen as a dangerous drug given that it is a legal substance and it has become widely popularized through media and social norms. However, a young person’s brain and body are still developing. Drinking alcohol at a young age can cause learning problems or even lead to alcoholism when they are older. Studies from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration have shown that adults who started to drink at age 14 or younger were much more likely to become dependent or abuse alcohol when compared to adults who had their first drink at age 21 or older.

As a parent, it is important to set clear expectations and consequences for your children. Establish strong family bonds so that children feel like they can count on their number one role model: their parents. Research has shown that parents are the number one influence on an adolescent’s decision to use alcohol or other drugs. If alcohol is available at your house, make sure to safeguard any alcoholic beverage and keep it out of their reach. Focus groups performed in the region indicate that adolescents access alcohol and other drugs primarily at home or at parties. A parent participant told PRC that he would draw a line on all his liquor bottles to mark and monitor how much he had left; this as a preventive effort to ensure that his children were not accessing alcohol from the house. These small measures can make big differences for a child’s future.

The Prevention Resource Center (PRC), a program of Behavioral Health Solutions of South Texas, serves as the central data collection repository for region 11 and the developer of a yearly Regional Needs Assessment (RNA), which is available to community members at no cost. PRC wants everyone to be safe this holiday season, and ensure that our communities are taking preventative steps when it comes to substance abuse.

To find out more about the prevention work being conducted in your community download the latest Regional Needs Assessment at our website, www.prc11.org/data . If you are interested in becoming a part of this project and would like to play a role in the 2017 Regional Needs Assessment process, please contact Irwin Mendoza, Regional Evaluator, at 787-7111 ext. 295, or Daniel Rodriguez, Program Coordinator, at 787-7111 ext. 238.