The Truth

With the best SAT scores in Connecticut, over 740 AP exams completed last year and the most state championships of any town in Connecticut, Darien is well known for its excellence in academic and athletic achievement. Unfortunately, a far more troubling statistic also distinguishes our town. When compared to Fairfield County peer towns, Darien has the highest reported rate of alcohol abuse among teenagers.* As parents and as a community, we need to do something about this troubling and dangerous situation. Let's start with some facts.

*Neighboring towns of Greenwich and New Canaan do not administer surveys for comparable data.

If you suspect your child is abusing alcohol, HELP is available: 2-1-1 Connecticut Info Line: 24/7 phone
Crisis Text Line (CTL)
Text CTL to 741741
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The Talk

1/3 of teens have never had a serious discussion with their parents about the dangers of alcohol or drug use. Many who haven't had these conversations wish that they could discuss substance abuse openly and honestly with Mom & Dad.* Children whose parents have clear discussions with them about the risks of substance abuse before the age of 10 are less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol early on.** In fact, 83% of youth cite their parents as the leading influence in their decision not to drink alcohol.***

Did you know?

How you drink is a model for how your children will drink. Role-modeling good decision making and responsible behavior is one of the most impactful ways your children will learn how to make healthy decisions regarding alcohol consumption. In many cases, what parents role-model has a greater impact than what parents say. A study by the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine reported that during role-play scenarios, children as young as four were mimicking their parents' use of alcohol.

Take the Talk Test:

Parents, can you really “talk the talk” when it comes to communicating effectively with your children about drinking? Take this test and find out.

*How to Raise a Drug Free Kid, Dr. Joseph Califano
**Hawkins, J.D. Graham, J.W. Magiun E, Abbot R, Hill and Cataleno, R. Exploring the effects of age of alcohol use initiation and psychosocial factors on subsequent alcohol misuse, Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1997
***The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility

  • 9 out of 10 people who abuse or are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs began using these substances before they were 18.
  • People who began using addictive substances before age 15 are 7 times more likely to develop a substance problem than those who delay first use until age 21 or older.
  • Every year that substance abuse is delayed during the period of adolescent brain development, the risk of addiction and substance abuse decreases.
  • 65% of teens report that they get their alcohol from family and friends.
  • Survey results show the average age Darien students start drinking is 13.7

Source: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Drinking in America: Myths, Realities and Prevention Policy. Washington, DC U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Program, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2005.

The Toxins

The toxic effects of drugs and alcohol can cause permanent damage to your child's brain.

During adolescent years, the brain is still in development, and thus more sensitive to the harmful consequences of alcohol. In fact, an adolescent can drink half as much as an adult and still experience the same negative effects. Learning and memory function are more impaired than in adults, and the damage to the adolescent brain can be irreversible. A recent study led by neuroscientist Susan Tapert of the University of California, San Diego compared the brain scans of teenagers who drink heavily (binge drink) with the scans of teenagers who do not.

The Results:
  • Binge drinkers did worse on thinking and memory tests when compared to non-binge drinkers
  • Binge drinking girls performed more poorly on tests of spatial functioning, an essential skill linked to mathematics and engineering tasks
  • Boys: poor performance on test of attention, being able to focus on something that might be somewhat boring for a sustained period of time
In Dr. Tapert's Words

"The magnitude of the difference [between the binge drinkers and the non-drinkers] measured at about 10%. Basically the difference between an A and a B." She then went on to evaluate the physical effects to brain matter itself, noting a marked difference in the white matter of binge drinkers.
"They appeared to have a number of little dings throughout their brains'
white matter, indicating poor quality. And poor quality of the brain's white matter indicates poor, inefficient communication between brain cells. These results were actually surprising to me because the binge drinking kids hadn't, in fact, engaged in a great deal of binge drinking. They were drinking on average once or twice a month, but when they did drink, it was relatively high quantity of at least four or five drinks on an occasion."

ThinkBefore you let them drink

For Parents:

Despite good intentions, some parents inadvertently give consent for underage drinking in their home by turning a blind eye to a potential party. Some parents even go so far as to serve minors in their home, thinking the children will be more “safe” if they stay at home. By giving parents facts about teen drinking and brain research, they can make more informed decisions about their family rules and communicate their values to their kids about alcohol use.

Social Host Laws
In Connecticut, allowing anyone under the age of 21 to possess alcohol in any dwelling unit or on private property is a criminal offense punishable by up to one year in jail for the person who owns or controls the property.

Any adult who is aware of drinking by anyone under age 21 on private property and fails to take reasonable steps to halt that drinking can also go to jail for up to a year.

For Teens:

The State of Connecticut has enacted minor in possession (MIP) laws that make it illegal for you to possess or consume alcohol on either private or public property.

Driver's License Suspension:
You will be subject to a 150 day suspension of your driver's license. If you don't have a license yet, you will have to wait 150 days before being eligible to apply for a driver's license.

You will have to pay a fine ranging from $200-$500

You may be subject to in-school discipline, including suspension, which may be reported to colleges.