Underage drinking increases in Nebraska

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Updated: Mon, 09 Sep 2013 08:34:10 CST

Are your kids drinking? A new study out of the University of Nebraska Medical Center shows that while nationally, underage drinking is on the decline. The same can't be said here in Nebraska. From 2007 to 2011, the state of Nebraska has seen a six percent increase in underage drinking. But we have some good news for the Tri-Cities: our numbers are down. "Roughly if you take the 6th, 8th, and 10th graders that we survey routinely we have about 30 to 35 percent of students that are drinking," said Area Substance & Alcohol Abuse Prevention Executive Director Scott Stemper. While the percentage may be down arrests are not. Sergeant Murphy says the number of Minors in Possession has stayed the same over the years. But he says that's not an accurate picture of underage drinking. "Arrests are only being made in a probably fairly small percentage of the actual underage drinking that's going on," said Murphy. Sergeant Murphy says most of the arrests are the ages between 16 and 20 and those teenagers have a common excuse for drinking. "We commonly hear from the teenagers that there's nothing else to do and that's what their friends are doing," said Stemper. But Sergeant Murphy doesn't buy it. "I think there are plenty of activities for people under 20 or under 21 to engage in if they so choose to," Murphy said. The Project Extra Mile study went on to show that in 2009, underage drinkers consumed a quarter of all alcohol sold in Nebraska. But how does this area stack up? "We have a very high rate of compliance at the liquor stores to not sell to minors," said Murphy. "98 percent of the retailers that we do compliance checks-pass. they do not sell to minors and so that's a pretty strong number for us," said Stemper. Stemper attributes that to recent education and outreach in the community. Because the same couldn't be said several years ago. "Four years ago we had about 20 percent of retailers that were selling to minors," said Stemper. While underage drinking may be down Stemper says drugs continue to be a problem. As methamphetamine use in the area increases. He's seen users as young as 6th grade.