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April is alcohol awareness month

In Hood River County most of us are well aware of the positive contributions that the alcohol industry brings to our community. It is one of the county’s largest employers, a significant contributor to many of our nonprofits and an industry that brings thousands of tourists and millions of dollars to the community each year. It is a beverage that brings enjoyment and physical health benefits to many adults.

But there is also a downside to this addictive elixir that we all must work together to reduce.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States. Over 100,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes; drinking and driving crashes, accidents, falls, fires, homicides and suicides.

Over half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking and 17.6 million people suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence.

If you are drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Adults should limit their drinking to no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men, per the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

You also need to know how much alcohol is in a standard drink. That is tricky in this day of fortified wine, beer, cider and hard liquor.

Alcohol use negatively affects the health and safety of our children. It is a primary factor in the four leading causes of death for young children between 10 and 21 years of age, taking 6,500 children’s lives a year in the U.S. Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.

We are fortunate that all of the 171 alcohol licensees in our county work extremely hard to reduce the harm of alcohol abuse by youth and adults, from no service or sale of alcohol to underage youth to no service or sale of alcohol to intoxicated customers.

It takes a combination of law enforcement, responsible drinkers and responsible servers and hosts to reduce the sale or service of alcohol to underage youth and/or intoxicated adults and keep our community safe.

Hood River County Prevention Department and its network of prevention partners have worked for over 20 years to reduce alcohol use by youth. In 2013 less than a third of the county 11th graders used alcohol in the last month and less than a fifth binge drank.

Current alcohol use at eighth and 11th grades has trended downward over the last 10 years in face of an ever-growing alcohol industry. This reduction of youth alcohol use is possibly because of the commitment we all share in increasing the health, safety and success of our youth and the community in which they live.

It takes all of us: parents, youth, law enforcement, courts, businesses, schools, churches, agencies, elected officials, treatment and prevention providers and in particular our local partners in the alcohol industry to achieve these outcomes.

Thank you for helping make Hood River County the third-healthiest county in the State of Oregon.

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Maija Yasui works as prevention specialist for the Hood River County Commission on Children and Families.

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