Alcohol, the primary gateway drug, is the most widely used and abused substance in the nation, state and our area. Nearly everyone in our community is affected by alcohol use or abuse in some manner. This is not to say that all who use alcohol abuse it. Far from it! In fact, only 10% of those who use alcohol encounter problems or are addicted to alcohol. The majority of us who imbibe have no problems in managing use.
Yet alcohol use and abuse knows no boundaries; Wyoming youth begin experimenting and using alcohol as early as the age of 11. In fact Wyoming has traditionally led the nation in number of underage drinking categories.
Alcohol is the primary substance of use and abuse for the general population as well. The County Attorney, as well as law enforcement agencies, indicates alcohol is the primary drug involved in crime and offenses against both person and property. According to the detention records, a majority of those jailed are detained for alcohol related offenses. And a surprising number of our elderly are being treated for trauma due to falls and injuries sustained due to alcohol use.
However, the culture of our state and county seems to deny that alcohol is a “drug”. The problem comes with abuse and misuse of alcohol. It is estimated that nearly 50% of all alcohol is consumed by the small percentage of “problem drinkers” and underage drinkers. It is figured that underage drinkers consumer 23.1% of all alcohol drank in Wyoming. Alcohol misuse contributes to more deaths in youth than all other drugs combined. Alcohol impacts our society in lost productivity, illness, and injury. Drunk driving, including deaths, causes immeasurable costs to our state. And in most of those cases, those losses can be avoided. Concerning alcohol, prevention is realistic, is cost effective and reasonable. Family involvement is critical to alcohol prevention.