STOP Act: Preventing Underage Drinking
The Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP) is a grant program to encourage community-based initiatives that prevent and reduce alcohol use among young people. The goal is to educate the public about the problem of underage drinking and reduce accidents that result from underage drinking.
Is underage drinking impacting your family? Let Zinnia Health answer your questions in a caring, confidential phone call. Call our helpline 24/7 at (855) 430-9439 to speak with our team of addiction treatment specialists.
What Is the STOP Act?
The Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP) is a federal program passed by Congress in December 2006. It’s found under Public Law 109-422 and is commonly called the STOP Act. When the STOP Act went into effect, the government recognized that a multi-faceted effort is necessary to successfully reduce underage drinking.
The STOP Act aims to reduce alcohol use among youth ages 12 to 20 by:
- Addressing the assumptions youth have about alcohol use
- Reducing opportunities for youth to access alcohol
- Improve enforcement activities to minimize underage drinking-related incidents
- Address the penalties currently imposed for underage alcohol use
As part of the STOP Act, grants are released, which the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) and other advocacy groups can apply for to fund public health announcements and healthcare programs. For example, a STOP Act grant may be used to improve youth access to educational materials and support services.
The Consequences of Underage Drinking
The STOP Act was enacted because underage drinking can cause many negative and dangerous consequences in communities, including:
- Motor vehicle crashes
- Higher instances of sexual assaults
- Negative mental health effects
- Increased risks of binge drinking and addictive behaviors
If your child or someone you know is dealing with underage drinking, help is available. Zinnia Health can connect you with answers and resources in your area. Speak to our team by calling (855) 430-9439 for a free, no-obligation conversation.
How to Address Underage Alcohol Use
Young people may drink for many reasons, including peer pressure, an unhealthy home environment, or mental health challenges. As Congress recognized when they passed the STOP Act back in 2006, overcoming underage drinking requires a multi-faceted approach.
The Role of Parents and Communities
Caregivers and communities play a major role in reducing underage drinking. Some ways you can help tackle the problem include the following:
- Restricting the availability of alcohol when you have minors in your home, even if you don’t think they’ll be tempted to drink or steal it
- Educating children about the dangers of underage drinking, including the life-changing consequences of driving under the influence
- Providing a safe ride for your child if they ever need it and reminding them that their safety and the safety of others on the road is your top priority
- Offering to assist local community centers and schools with substance abuse prevention education through presentations, story-sharing, and handouts
While national media campaigns against drunk driving and other risks can help youth recognize the serious outcomes of alcohol misuse, it’s not enough.
If you have children in your care, get directly involved in teaching them about the dangers, modeling healthy behavior, and giving them healthy outlets if they’re stressed, anxious, depressed, or experiencing peer pressure.
Improving Access to Mental Health Services
Nearly half of all adolescents have experienced a mental health disorder at some point in their lives, and this may increase their risk of underage drinking. Whether they’re trying to “fit in” and end up giving in to peer pressure or they’re trying to suppress their emotions, mental health plays a role in addiction.
Common mental health symptoms in adolescents include:
- Having low energy
- Withdrawing from activities they used to enjoy
- Having trouble sleeping at night or sleeping more during the day
- Changes in eating habits
- Spending more time alone
- Harming themselves, such as burning or cutting their skin
- Engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior
- Expressing thoughts of self-harm or suicide
If you notice any of these warning signs, or you just feel like your child isn’t acting like themselves, don’t chalk it up to puberty or the “tough teenage years.” Early intervention can help them learn healthy behaviors and coping skills that will stay with them through life while minimizing the risk of alcohol use, drug use, and self-harm.
Reforming the Juvenile Justice System
One of the goals of the STOP Act is to reform the juvenile justice system by rethinking drinking laws and the penalties for underage alcohol consumption. As we learn more about the disease of substance abuse and addiction, it becomes clearer to lawmakers that jail or prison sentences do not correct substance use. Here are some goals of the STOP act:
- Treat alcohol use and misuse as the disease that it is, one that requires a person to heal and will not go away on its own
- Improve state efforts to educate citizens, lawmakers, and healthcare professionals about the complexities of substance use disorder
- Invest in state-run programs for public education and treatment of alcohol use, especially among young people
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use, the best way to overcome it is to go through an evidence-based treatment program.
Treatment Options for Young People
Underage drinking isn’t solved just because you take away alcohol. There needs to be an understanding of the underlying causes and triggers of alcohol use. A treatment facility or addiction treatment professional can address individual needs, but you’ll want to evaluate all your options.
- Ask your healthcare provider to connect you with services in your area and discuss different therapies that may be part of their treatment plan.
- Your child can attend inpatient or outpatient treatment, but compliance checks may be needed if they live on their own.
- If your child lives at home, they will most likely attend an outpatient program as long as your house is a healthy, supportive environment and there is no concurrent drug abuse.
- If your family is worried about the cost of mental health or addiction treatment, an organization like SAMHSA may provide grants to cover the cost.
- Family therapy may be encouraged to improve your child’s support system during and after recovery and help them get through the treatment process successfully.
Do you want to discuss your family’s options for alcohol recovery? The specialists at Zinnia Health are on your side. Call our 24/7 helpline at (855) 430-9439 to have a free, confidential conversation with our team and get connected with resources in your area.