Teenage alcohol abuse at record levels

June 3, 2010 by Geoffrey Zygier
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The Jewish community has never before experienced the levels of underage drinking, alcohol abuse and its associated risks and problems as it is currently experiencing.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Jewish youth are currently drinking and abusing alcohol at a higher rate than ever before, mirroring the trends of the general community in Victoria. In particular, the evidence suggests that Jewish females as young as 12 years of age are drinking alcohol at alarming rates, including binge drinking on a regular basis. Whilst it was once assumed that the Jewish community in general was not imbued with a drinking culture, this now appears not to be the case for Jewish teenagers.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has been undertaking a Youth Alcohol Project for some time. The main aim of the project which includes representatives from Jewish Care, Hatzolah, is to tackle the issue of underage drinking in the Victorian Jewish Community.

To increase awareness amongst Jewish youth, parents and the Jewish community at large of the harmful effects of underage drinking, the JCCV has employed Debbie Zauder to research and develop a long term educational campaign. The JCCV Youth Alcohol Project is utilising a collaborative approach involving the Jewish Day Schools, community organisations, synagogues and health related services.

The main focus of the Youth Alcohol Project is the development of an alcohol education awareness program that will be embedded in the curriculum of the Jewish Day Schools in Victoria. The educational program focuses primarily on Year 6 students and their parents. The program will be facilitated by drug and alcohol experts combined with members of the Victoria Police Force. The Year 6 level was chosen as it is the pre bar/batmitzvah age, when Jewish youth are frequently and regularly exposed to settings where alcohol is served. The program involves educating and providing both students and their parents with skills, knowledge and power to combat underage drinking issues that are widespread and appear to be increasing.

The framework of the program for the students will include the following topics:

→ Choices and decision making

→ Understanding what is risky behaviour and consequences

→ Alcohol and health

→ Alcohol and the law

→ Strategies including

◘ dealing with peer pressure

◘ ensuring conversation about the issue of alcohol

◘ how to say no

The framework of the program for the parents will include the following topics:

→ Impact of alcohol on an adolescent’s brain, current research explained

→ Setting boundaries and limits, making and keeping rules

→ Appropriate and effective role modelling of drinking behaviour

→ Alcohol, youth, parents and the law

→ Strategies for effective parenting in relation to alcohol, including

◘ dealing with peer pressure, youth and adult

◘ ensuring conversation about the issue of alcohol

◘ how to say no to your child

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