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Survey: Teens getting booze from parents

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Alcohol is the drug of choice for Gwinnett's teenagers, said Ellen Gerstein, the executive director of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services.

What's most concerning, Gerstein said, is where the teens say they are getting the alcohol. According to the results of the Gwinnett Coalition's latest Youth Health Survey, teens report they mainly get alcohol from their parents and other adults.

"It's not like they're sneaking it from the liquor cabinet ... or buying it from the store with a fake ID. Their parents are giving it to them. We're very concerned about this," Gerstein said. "Youth who drink are also much more involved in other risky behaviors, such as lying to their parents, skipping school (and) stealing."

Overall, the Youth Health Survey shows "that high-risk behavior among our youth continues to exist in all areas across Gwinnett," Gerstein said.

Since 1996, the Gwinnett Coalition has used the results of the survey to inform and engage the community in improving conditions that put youth at risk. Progress has been made in many areas, Gerstein said.

In 2000, for example, 11.2 percent of middle-schoolers reported that they had used inhalants. In 2008, the date of the latest survey, that number had dropped to 1.2 percent. Gerstein attributes the drop to educational programs that targeted that area.

Armed with this data, the Gwinnett Coalition can target the appropriate resources and make an impact, Gerstein said. The results of the latest survey shows more resources should be shifted to parent education.

"Parents are the first line of defense in helping their children avoid these risky behaviors," Gerstein said.

The Youth Health Survey includes information in several topics, including physical health and nutrition, substance abuse, sexual activity, delinquency and violence, mental health and positive assets.

To obtain a report of the survey results, visit www.gwinnettcoalition.org. For more information about the survey, call Gerstein at 770-995-3339.