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Maine Criminal Justice Academy Liquor Laws: Train-the-Trainer Event June 14-15, 2004. Becca Matusovich Prevention Specialist Maine Office of Substance Abuse. Underage Drinking in Maine. Why should we care? The scope of the problem Underage access to alcohol Parent perceptions Common Myths

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Maine Criminal Justice Academy Liquor Laws: Train-the-Trainer Event June 14-15, 2004

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Maine Criminal Justice AcademyLiquor Laws: Train-the-Trainer EventJune 14-15, 2004

Becca Matusovich

Prevention Specialist

Maine Office of Substance Abuse

Underage Drinking in Maine

  • Why should we care? The scope of the problem

  • Underage access to alcohol

  • Parent perceptions

  • Common Myths

  • Enforcement as a prevention tool

  • Support for enforcement

Underage Drinking:

Why should we care?The Scope of the Problem in Maine

Alcohol is the leading drug of choice among Maine youth

Source: 2002 Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Use Survey

Not just law enforcement’s problem

All members of Maine’s communities should be concerned about underage and high-risk drinking

  • Health & Safety Risks

  • Academic/educational impacts

  • Secondhand Effects

  • Legal Issues

Kids who begin drinking by age 15 are 4x more likely to develop alcohol abuse/dependence than those who wait until age 21- the risk drops for every year that initial alcohol use is delayed (40% before age 15 to 10% after age 21)

With as little as one drink, alcohol impairs normal brain function in adolescents more than adults; each episode of heavy drinking among adolescents and young adults can result in impaired learning/ memory function for up to 2 weeks

Why is underage drinking a problem?

Note: sources for this information are available on the “Medical Impact” page of the Office of Substance Abuse Parent Kit

Alcohol-related traffic crashes are the leading cause of death and disability among youth

Alcohol is a major factor in all of the other leading causes of death and injury among youth –

homicide, suicide, burns, drownings, and falls

Alcohol use has been strongly linked to depression, sexually transmitted diseases, and date rape and other criminal behavior (both as perpetrator and as victim)

Why is underage drinking a problem?

Note: sources for this information are available on the “Medical Impact” page of the Office of Substance Abuse Parent Kit

Long-term health risks

  • A number of long-term health risks are associated with drinking above “moderate” levels (new FDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderate to be no more than 1 drink per day for women, 2 drinks per day for men)

  • Most obvious alcohol-related health risk: addiction

  • Several shorter-term effects of regular heavy drinking (especially at younger ages) are self-reinforcing and can propel the drinker toward the trigger point for physical dependence/addiction:

    • State-dependent learning

    • Increase in tolerance

    • Social dependence (group relies on alcohol for social functioning)

    • Psychological dependence (individual relies on alcohol for social functioning)

Use alcohol in social situations


learning cycle:

This is particularly relevant for

adolescents, who are learning and practicing a lot of new social skills!

Can only access skills developed under the influence when under the influence

Learn/practice social skills while under the influence

Second-hand Effects:Consider the impact on other youth (the “silent majority”)

  • Most youth don’t drink at all or drink very little and infrequently, but those who drink most frequently often do so at high risk levels and it is this minority that causes most of the problems.

  • This minority can sometimes dominate the social environment and seem more visible than those students who are actually making healthier choices

Maine Statistics

Prevalence of behavioral problems (in the past year) among Maine 12th graders by drinking category

Source: 2000 Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Use Survey, Office of Substance Abuse (BDS)

But we all share the burden: Costs of Alcohol-related Crime in Maine

In 2000:

• There were 473 deaths in Maine directly caused by or attributable to alcohol abuse, including 46 deaths in alcohol-related car crashes.

  • These early deaths resulted in an estimated 9,033 years of potential life lost.

  • Approximately 2,280 arrests were made for assaults (aggravated, sexual, and other) that were directly related to alcohol abuse – about 30% of the total assaults for that year.

  • Alcohol-related crime in Maine is estimated to have cost a total of $49.1 million (enforcement, judicial, corrections, property destruction, and victims’ lost productivity costs).

Source: OSA, The Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Maine, 2000

There are lots of…




…where/when it is





It doesn’t need to be just about the magic age of 21…

  • for people to drink (or to drink too much) even if they are over age 21…

Be clear about the goal:

to reduce and prevent problems

We need to increase perceptions of “personal” risk, not just “general” risk

  • Otherwise our silence supports their belief that it’s not really all that risky and that we are just trying to keep them from having any fun

    • The law exists for a reason

    • It’s not just about the headline tragedies

Underage Access to Alcohol in Maine

Underage Access to Alcohol

DEEP Survey of OUI offenders under age 21 (2000)

  • 90% of respondents were between 18 and 20 (one-third were college students)

  • 62% said it is “very easy” and 24% said it is “sort of easy” to get alcohol

    Key point:

  • Ease of access demonstrated a statistically significant relationship with both frequent and heavy drinking

On your most recent drinking occasion, how did you get the alcohol (check all that apply)?

Source: DEEP Access to Alcohol Survey, 2000

Source: DEEP Access to Alcohol Survey, 2000

Context on most recent drinking occasion

Source: DEEP Access to Alcohol Survey, 2000

It is possible to reduce furnishing with strategic enforcement and education

Evaluation results from 4 HEAPP campus initiatives (2001-2003) which included reduced furnishing as an objective of the grant activities

At the 4 schools involved, 2003 students were:

33.4% more likely to say it was highly likely that they would face legal and/or disciplinary consequences for providing alcohol to minor

32.3% less likely to say they had provided alcohol to someone under age 21 in the past 2 weeks

Source: OSA, Evaluation of Maine’s Higher Education Alcohol Prevention Project (HEAPP):

Summary of pre-test (2001) and post-test (2003) Core Survey data

Other Resources

  • Sticker Shock Campaign

    For stickers and posters to distribute to local licensees, call OSA IRC at 1-800-499-0027

Parent Perceptions

OSA Parent Media Campaign: started January 2003, still going…

  • Goal: Reduce alcohol use by Maine teenagers by increasing the use of effective parenting techniques

  • Target: Parents of 8-12th graders, specifically those who understand the basics of effective parenting, but may not be implementing those strategies consistently when it comes to preventing alcohol use

The research shows that Maine parents…

  • are very concerned about underage drinking – alcohol was by far their #1 concern out of all substances

  • vastly underestimate the likelihood that their own kid is drinking

  • vastly overestimate the likelihood that they would catch their kid if he/she was drinking

  • overestimate how honest their kids are being with them about their alcohol choices

  • value the open and trusting relationship they have with their kids and find it difficult to challenge their kids based on suspicions

Do you really know?

What does this mean for enforcement? A critical opportunity to break a dangerous pattern…

  • A violation may be a wake-up call for both a teen and their parents – in some cases it may be the only chance they get to open their eyes before it is too late

  • Most parents will appreciate being informed and having the opportunity to intervene before their child is too far along in their use (although they may not express it)

Other resources for working with parents


  • Order Parent Kits and other materials from OSA IRC (1-800-499-0027)

  • Power Point Presentation for Parents is available (on CD-Rom, or email

Common Myths

Reality: It does work, in spite of inconsistent enforcement

Many studies have found that drinking among 18-20 year olds increased with the lowered drinking age and decreased when the drinking age was raised to 21.

The latest review of all the research available concludes:

“The preponderance of the evidence suggests that higher legal

drinking ages reduce alcohol consumption”

The majority of studies on the relationship between the drinking age and traffic crashes found that traffic crashes increased significantly with the lowered drinking age and decreased significantly when the drinking age was raised to 21.

Myth: The minimum legal drinking age doesn’t work

Source: Wagenaar A. and Toomey, T. Effects of the Minimum Drinking Age Laws: Review and Analyses of the Literature from 1960 to 2000. Journal of Studies on Alcohol (Supplement No. 14): 2002.


Recent research shows that in a majority of European countries, a greater percentage of 15-16 year olds report drinking to excess (5+ drinks in a row) than U.S. 15-16 year olds

About half of the European countries have intoxication rates among 15-16 yr olds that are greater than in the U.S. (1/4 are about the same, and1/4 are lower)

Some European countries are exploring some of our strategies, including higher minimum drinking ages, for reducing high-risk drinking

Many factors influence drinking patterns and related problems across Europe and the U.S., including government policies, tax rates, retail availability, religious/cultural values, advertising regulations, driving norms, and social acceptability of intoxication.

Myth: the U.S. would not have such problems if we lowered our drinking age like Europe

  • Source: US Dept of Justice, Comparison of Drinking Rates and Problems: European Countries

  • and the United States, 2001.

Enforcement as a Prevention Strategy

Why Enforcement as a Prevention Strategy?

  • We need to broaden our focus from simply educating individual youth to changing the environment

    • Individual decisions are not made in a vacuum

    • The alcohol industry spends more than $1 billion/year to shape the environment in which our drinking decisions are made and to manipulate people’s beliefs about what alcohol will do for them



      Drinking=normalResponsible drinking=not driving

Some Keys to Enforcement as a Prevention Strategy…

  • Stay focused on the outcome: reducing problems

  • Think proactively and creatively – how to prevent future problems rather than how to catch the most people breaking the law

  • This isn’t about “good” kids or “bad“ kids – it is about high-risk choices that are often encouraged by the environment that surrounds all our kids

  • It’s not just about the kids… hold adults accountable for the law as well

Effective enforcementA powerful prevention tool when it is used to:

  • Reduce underage access (by deterring furnishing/sales and confiscating alcohol before it gets consumed)

  • Clearly communicate a community’s standards for acceptable behavior and provide meaningful consequences for violating these standards

  • Focus on preventing high-risk behavior and take advantage of opportunities to intervene in harmful patterns of behavior

  • Increase individuals’ understanding of their own risk by expressing specific & personal concern for high-risk behavior

  • Engage parents as critical partners in influencing their children’s choices and empower them to address the problem directly and constructively with their kids

You’re not in this alone…

Enforcement should be part of a comprehensive community approach… not the only strategy, but an essential piece…

Without enforcement, no plan to address underage drinking will be as effective as it could be

Other Underage Drinking Initiatives: Good potential partners

  • HEAPP(9+ campus-community coalitions and statewide initiative)

  • One Maine(23 community coalitions)

  • Maine Youth Voices(19 groups)

  • Youth Empowerment and Policy Group

  • Statewide Compliance Checks(OSA, AG’s Office, DPS)

    Hopefully restarting in early 2005…

  • Maine Chiefs/Justice Planning and Management Associates

    Online course on underage drinking enforcement in development, to be launched sometime in fall 2004

  • And many others…

Support for Enforcement

Good news: you may find youth are more supportive of change than you expect

Support for enforcement in Maine

  • The HEAPP Evaluation (2001-2003) found that:

    After substantial increases in enforcement effort on and around the participating campuses, survey results indicated that students were 66% MORE likely in 2003 to support disciplinary consequences for students who repeatedly violated campus alcohol policies (compared to 2001 survey results)

Source: OSA, Evaluation of Maine’s Higher Education Alcohol Prevention Project (HEAPP):

Summary of pre-test (2001) and post-test (2003) Core Survey data

And parents too…

Enforcement of existing laws was the top choice for parents when asked which strategies for addressing underage drinking they support

Source: Maine Parents’ Views on Teen Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, 2002 (random sample, N=4,122)

If you’re asking, “aside from just giving out citations, what else can I do?…”

  • Whenever you encounter or suspect underage drinking, express concern

  • Be watchful for students who appear to be suffering from alcohol-related problems – refer them for help

  • Don’t underestimate the damage caused by alcohol – remember that the media and alcohol industry deliberately skew our perceptions in order to reap huge profits. Work to balance these influences on young people’s environments

  • Contact parents whenever possible – see each incident as an opportunity to break a dangerous pattern

“What can I do?” continued…

  • Model and help young people learn ways to have fun and socialize without drinking

  • Support youth who don’t drink – avoid undermining their decisions by implying that “everybody else drinks”

  • Know the definition of “moderate” drinking – correct students’ misunderstandings of that term

  • Don’t joke about, brag about, or model drinking heavier than the moderate guidelines; when students do so, express concern (laughing or silence implies approval)

  • Skip the “When I was your age…” stories unless they have a clear message

We’d like to help support your regional trainings

  • See contact list of people in your region who are willing to partner with you and possibly to present this portion of the curriculum when you deliver your regional training for other officers

Thanks for your hard work!

Let me know if I can help:


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