TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - "I think a lot of people think of youth alcohol use as a right of passage," said Tippecanoe Drug Free Coalition Director Kate Kerrigan. "But it's dangerous. It's very dangerous."
Though it may be dangerous, a new study done by the University of Michigan shows that 20 percent of high school seniors admitted to binge drinking in 2012.
Here in Tippecanoe County, Kerrigan said that number is higher, coming in at 25 percent.
"The national statistics are high and that's concerning," said Kerrigan. "But, to know that the numbers we see in Tippecanoe County are even a little higher, that's very concerning."
IU Health Arnett Pediatrician Anne Marie Bianculli said those concerns are legitimate. She said teens need to be aware that the decisions they make now, could affect them for the rest of their lives.
"Alcohol can be toxic to the central nervous system," said Bianculli. "It can affect memory, it can affect how the brain works with cognitive function, so decision making and higher processes."
Kerrigan said she's hoping those facts are something the Drug Free Coalition can help educate teens about.
Thanks to a $125,000 federal grant the coalition received, Kerrigan said they'll now be able to focus on making positive changes in our community.
"Help prevent youth alcohol use, youth synthetic marijuana use and youth use of prescription and over the counter medication."
Kerrigan said the grant is from the National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration and is good for five years.
"Studies have shown that parents are the number one influence on their kid's lives and that's what kids are reporting, not just what adults are thinking is true," said Kerrigan. "So, it's important for them to be able to communicate with their parents and for their parents to communicate with them."
Kerrigan said while 25 percent of high school seniors admitted to binge drinking in 2012, it is actually down from the previous year.
In 2011, 29 percent of Tippecanoe County high school seniors admitted to binge drinking.
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