ATLANTA (GA) - Georgia’s newest agency is highlighting the month of April to bring awareness to the dangers of alcohol use among underage youth. Since February, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) Office of Prevention Services and Programs has partnered with the HHS Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia to place 24 billboards throughout the state, with seven located in counties throughout metro-Atlanta, emphasizing the importance of early communication. Billboards in metro-Atlanta are located off the Canton Highway Connector and I-20 in Rockdale, Morrow Industrial Blvd in Clayton, I-75 in Cobb, Chamblee Tucker Road in DeKalb, Metropolitan Ave., in Fulton, and Airport Rd., in Gwinnett.
“Getting the message out to every adult who has direct influence on a child’s life is extremely important to deterring early alcohol use among youth,” says Cassandra Price, M.B.A., executive director of DBHDD’s Division of Addictive Diseases. “The placement of these billboards is the first in a series of steps to help adults initiate conversations that could potentially save the life of a child.”
According to a recent report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), early alcohol use may have long-lasting consequences. The report says that people who begin drinking before the age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence at some time in their lives compared with those who have their first drink at age 20 or older. Research has also shown that the brain is not fully physiologically mature until a person’s mid-twenties; according to NIAAA, for example, ‘teen brains may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol and other drugs.’
In addition to placing “Start Talking Before They Start Drinking” billboards around the state, several DBHDD providers and other organizations will be hosting town hall meetings to provide parents, teachers, guardians and community leaders information about the dangers of alcohol and the importance of having meaningful conversations with youth before its too late.