The discovery of 10 young people drinking in a house in Tupapa has police asking serious questions about how the teenagers got their hands on the alcohol in the first place.
It has also raised concerns by leading health professionals about underage consumption of alcohol and why young people are choosing to drink without any thought of the consequences, long lasting health effects and their inability to make good decisions while impaired.
Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt said they are investigating how the teenagers obtained the alcohol.
He said parents have been spoken to, names have been gathered, although on the night in question some youths were not particularly forthcoming.
“Police now have a tougher approach to alcohol sales and unlawful consumption.”
Punanga Tauturu Inc coordinator Rebeka Buchanan said young people are choosing to drink alcohol either to fit in with their peers, have non-parental guidance and no rules around alcohol.
“The underage youngsters caught drinking by police, is a cautionary and timely reminder to all of us as a community, that this is a wider problem,” she said.
Buchanan said there are many influences that young people can be drawn into these days, some good, and some with lifelong lasting effects, due to the harmful effects of alcohol.
“It starts in the home, and they also say it takes a village to raise a child – and they’re absolutely right. Parents, individually and collectively, have the most powerful effect in a child’s life, especially when it comes to underage drinking,” she said.
It is important to regularly talk to children about the rules for home and the safety net that is there to keep them safe from harm, including alcohol, Buchanan said.
“We want to prevent such high risk taking in these youngsters, to understand that they can cause more damage to their young brains early if this carries on.”
Te Marae Ora clinical psychologist Dr Evangelene Daniela-Wong explained that when a person reaches teenage years, a part of the brain that controls emotions and feelings goes into overdrive from about the ages of 14 -20.
She explained that the part of the brain responsible for consequences and making informed decisions (called the prefrontal cortex) is not turned on properly until the mid to late 20s.
Alcohol increases the level of dopamine in the brain that makes youngsters feel good, but makes them super sensitive to the effects of alcohol.
There’s not much of a hangover – it makes them think they are less intoxicated than they are and are much more likely to make bad decisions, or end up in bad places.
“Research shows the earlier you drink the more likely you are to have problems with abating alcohol later in life – so hold off on starting to drink. It also shows that drinking when young makes it more difficult to learn,” Daniela-Wong said.
Rebeka Buchanan said there is a greater need to start addressing these issues amongst young people to understand the consequences of alcohol on their health, education, and wellbeing in a safe environment.
She added that the Punanga Tauturu Inc have in place counsellors that can work with young people and parents on all these issues to prevent escalating of the problems.
Contact them on 21133 for support and guidance.