EUGENE, Ore. — Lane County Public Health says a recent survey reveals the average age area residents start drinking is 12, and more than 90 percent of the alcohol consumed is while binge drinking.
That same survey also showed that Lane County’s alcohol-related death rates are two times the national average.
As a result, the Eugene Prevention Coalition, University of Oregon and Lane County Public Health have joined forces in an effort to minimize the rate of binge drinking and alcohol abuse in Eugene.
More common than cigarettes, marijuana and all other drugs combined, local data show alcohol is the drug of choice for our youth. That same survey revealed binge drinking is most common among young adults aged 18-34. And it’s not just alcohol that’s a problem.
“These behaviors greatly increase the likelihood of someone developing an addiction or getting engaged in problem drinking behavior,” said Lindsey Adkisson, Community Health Analyst.
It doesn’t stop there.
“That puts the individual at risk for intentional injury, unintentional injury, sexual assault, STDs, the list goes on,” Adkinsson said.
To help young people help themselves, the coalition has launched a campaign that takes on binge drinking and drinking games. They are currently working with local stores to minimize the amount of marketing and merchandising that may encourage these activities often unintentionally.
“In the fall, there’s all this excitement and all this revelry. Well the other aspect is inadvertently, possibly promoting activities that really are not very positive,” said Paul Shang, UO Dean of Students.
“The first thought that occurred to me was wow I hadn’t really thought about this,” said Marc Carlson, Safeway Manager.
But once it was brought to their attention, local stores like Safeway on 18th Avenue and Pearl Street got to work.
“When I got it went and talked with a couple of my managers and we said this makes perfect sense. We wouldn’t want to support something that would be detrimental to the community,” Carlson said.
They immediately changed displays, pairing shelves of beer with snack foods instead of red cups or tennis balls associated with games like beer pong.
While the changes are subtle, the coalition says bringing attention to the problem is the first step to creating real change.
“I think that’s the goal in prevention. There’s no silver bullet. You’ve got to step back and realize that there are lots of different approaches to making it successful,” said Jennifer Summers, UO Director of Substance Abuse Prevention.
While some wonder how big of an impact this will all make, the coalition says this is only the beginning of their work. Noting their continued work with the city on the social host ordinance, the UO says this is just one part of the effort to create a more positive environment for all of the community.