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Group discusses how to prevent underage drinking

LILBURN - Underage drinking in Gwinnett County has decreased in the past six years, however, those underage drinkers are doing it with greater frequency, according to county substance abuse prevention agency.

Responding to a 2006 survey by GUIDE Inc., 53.8 percent of high school students said they have used alcohol. That is down from 59.1 percent surveyed in 2000.

Meanwhile, 20.5 percent of middle school students responded "yes" that they have ever used alcohol, down from 22.1 in 2006.

GUIDE sponsored a Town Hall meeting Tuesday night at Berkmar High School in Lilburn to discuss how to prevent underage drinking.

When asked if they had a drink in the past 30 days, 39.7 percent of high school students responded yes, compared with 25.5 percent in 2000. On the 30-day question, 13.6 percent of middle school students responded yes last year, compared with 4.9 percent in 2000.

"One of the problems that we find is that parents are giving alcohol to their children," said Millie Linville, a GUIDE program specialist.

Of the students who do use alcohol, 30.6 percent say they get it from their parents with permission, the survey found.

"We want to reiterate to parents that it's illegal for anyone under 21 to drink," Linville said.

One way to prevent underage drinking is to find clubs that promote awareness.

"We rely on organizations that support activities without alcohol," said Margaret Shortreed, who sponsors SAVE and SADD at Parkview High School in Lilburn. SAVE stands for Students Against Violence Everywhere and SADD stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions.