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JCCV Adamant - Youth and Alcohol Do Not Mix

JCCV Adamant - Youth and Alcohol Do Not Mix

14 October 2010

Jewish youth as young as eleven and twelve are drinking alcohol in excessive amounts, Jewish teenage binge drinking appears to be rising and young Jewish females are drinking alcohol at a rate equal to the general teenage community.

Many parents buy alcohol for their children and it is typical to have alcohol at youth parties. And yet research all around the world now clearly shows that alcohol damages the undeveloped brain, a brain that doesn’t fully mature until 25 years of age. Evidence and resources to support families in managing youth and alcohol can be found at www.odyssey.org.au, www.drinkwise.com.au and www.adf.com.au.

In response to this disturbing, growing trend, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) is conducting the Youth Alcohol Project (YAP). The main aim of the project is to tackle the issue of underage drinking, by utilising a collaborative community approach involving schools, community organisations, synagogues and health services. JCCV employed Debbie Zauder, as the Project Officer to research, develop and co-ordinate the YAP.

Debbie has devised an educational program focusing on Year 6 students and their parents. The program is facilitated by a drug and alcohol counsellor from Odyssey House, combined with a member of the Divisional Office of Proactive Policing and has been run successfully at many of our Jewish schools.

The reasoning behind the focus on Year 6 is that it is at the pre bar/bat-mitzvah age, when Jewish youth are frequently and regularly exposed to settings where alcohol is served. The focus of the program involves educating both students and their parents with skills, knowledge and power to combat underage binge drinking issues that are widespread and appear to be increasing in that age bracket within the Jewish Community.

The JCCV Youth Alcohol Project is a collaborative project including representatives from the JCCV, the Jewish Schools, Hatzolah, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, Jewish Care Victoria, AUJS and the Taskforce Against Domestic Violence. Other interested individuals are also involved on the Committee.

You may well ask “why do youth drink?” A number of answers come to mind, to relax, to escape, because they’re bored, to enhance their mood, because their friends drink, or simply to just get drunk! However, most youth are not aware what the physical short and long term effects are. Furthermore, youth do not think about the costs involved, to themselves, their families, their community and society in general.

As part of the program, Rene De’Santanna, Senior Drug and Alcohol Counsellor at Odyssey House Victoria explains these issues in detail, basing his information on the latest international research.  Rene presents an interactive session, with students always keen to ask questions and learn. He takes them on a journey, explaining about the history of alcohol, its various uses, the metabolic effects of alcohol and the reasons youth should delay starting to drink alcohol.

The highlight of the session is when Rene performs his now infamous “egg experiment”. Rene explains how an egg is similar to a human head, including a shell covering a membrane. He cracks the egg and pours methylated spirits over the egg, as an analogy for alcohol affecting the brain. The students are fascinated as they watch the egg quickly cook and soon realise this experiment displays a reality they had never before considered.

The reality is that the latest research demonstrates that abnormalities have been recorded in brain structure and cognitive tasks from youth drinking alcohol. These abnormalities have been recorded in youth who have only been drinking for 1 - 2 years and drinking as little as 20 - 40 drinks per month or as little as 5 – 10 drinks per week. The abnormalities are even worse if more than 4 - 5 drinks are consumed on a single occasion. This is the frightening truth of the effects of alcohol on our youth and their developing brains.

Stay tuned for the next edition where we will be discussing what parents can do to support each other in a bid to stop our youth drinking. There will also be a forum held at 7.30 pm on 16 November 2010 at Beth Weizmann to address this problem.

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