Q. What is 21 Reasons?
A. 21 Reasons is a Portland-based coalition of individuals, organizations, and businesses with a common goal: to build a community environment that supports the drug-free development of our youth. Our work focuses on changing adult attitudes, policies, and practices to make alcohol less available to youth. This strategy has proven results in decreasing youth use of alcohol and other drugs. 21 Reasons is a project of Medical Care Development, Inc., a non-profit organization that works to improve public health and well-being.
Q. Why underage drinking? What about other drugs?
A. 21 Reasons is committed to reducing all substance abuse by youth. Our strategies focus on underage drinking because our data consistently shows that alcohol is the most abused drug among Portland youth. National studies show that alcohol causes more youth deaths than all other illegal drugs combined, and that drinking alcohol has dangerous effects on teen brains, which are still developing. In addition, studies show that the great majority of youth who use other drugs also use alcohol. And when teen drinking rates go down, overall drug use tends to go down as well.
Q. Who is part of the community coalition? Can I join, too?
A. 21 Reasons is made up of everyone who believes in our mission and wants to help build a healthier community for kids. Our coalition includes parents and youth, school staff, law enforcement, health professionals, faith organizations, business owners, community leaders, and the media. If you are interested in joining our coalition, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-773-7737. If you would like to join our email list, click here.
Q. How exactly does 21 Reasons work to prevent underage drinking?
A. 21 Reasons focuses on community-level change, which is also known as “environmental” change, because we work on the attitudes, policies, and practices that make up the community’s alcohol “environment.” To create change, we work closely with law enforcement, business owners, policymakers, and the media. Examples of environmental strategies include stronger policies to make alcohol less accessible to minors, training and resources for enforcement of underage drinking laws, and media campaigns to change adult attitudes and practices.
Q. Does 21 Reasons provide substance abuse counseling or other services?
A. 21 Reasons is a prevention coalition, and we do not provide treatment services. However, our coalition partners include several organizations that provide treatment. Please click here for a list of treatment resources in Maine.
Q. Does 21 Reasons provide education or recreational programs for youth?
A. 21 Reasons focuses mainly on adults, simply because adults control the alcohol in a community. This control includes the way alcohol is sold or marketed, how the laws are enforced, how underage drinking is portrayed in the media, and how parents and other adults communicate their rules and expectations. 21 Reasons does not have any youth programs, but we do strive to engage youth as active members and leaders in educating adults and changing the community’s alcohol environment.
Q. But isn’t alcohol safer than other drugs – especially if youth who have been drinking don’t drive?
A. First, alcohol isn’t safer than other drugs; in fact, alcohol kills more youth than all other drugs combined. Second, only one-third of underage drinking deaths involve auto crashes. The majority of youth alcohol-related deaths are from alcohol poisoning, homicide, suicide, and accidents such as burns, falls, and drowning.
Q. I’ve heard so much about the “European model” of youth drinking. What is it, and is it better than what we have here?
A. The premise of the European model is that most European kids grow up in societies where alcohol is viewed as something to be enjoyed with a meal in moderation, and kids are allowed to begin drinking alcohol at a young age. In this way, moderate drinking is taught to young people, and the “forbidden fruit” aspect of underage drinking is avoided.
Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, the “European model” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Research shows that European youth drink more often, more heavily, and get drunk more often than American teens. Making alcohol more easily available to youth leads to more teen drinking, not less.
Part of the issue is how a young person’s brain works. As any parent of a teenager knows, teens’ decision-making skills are still developing. This, combined with teens’ natural desire for thrill seeking, makes it impossible to “teach” them moderate drinking. Research has also shown that the developing teen brain is more vulnerable to alcohol addiction and alcohol-related depression.
This doesn’t mean that adults should never drink in front of youth—in fact, adults modeling moderate drinking behavior may be helpful to young people in forming healthy attitudes about adult drinking. But this is probably as far as any “teaching” of moderate drinking should go!
Q. Isn’t underage drinking just a rite of passage? What can we really do to stop it?
A. Actually, most American teens don’t drink. A recent Maine survey showed that a majority of teens – 60% of 10th graders and 51% of 12th graders – hadn’t consumed alcohol during the past 30 days. The misperception that “everybody’s doing it” makes young people more likely to drink. If we can correct these misperceptions, along with working on our other efforts, youth will be less likely to drink.
Q. I’m interested in getting involved, but I don’t live near Portland. What can I do?
A. We encourage you to get involved in your own community. There are many local substance abuse prevention coalitions and programs throughout Maine and the United States.
Q. I’m only receiving the quarterly newsletter, and not the Tip of the Month. Why?
A. Our email lists for our newsletter and our Tip of the Month are different, and signing up for one does not automatically put you on the distribution list for the other. Please visit our Mailing Lists page to make sure you’re signed up for both.