Alcohol and Underage Drinking

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance by youth and adults in Hunterdon County. Hunterdon County rated #5 in the State for high rates of treatment admissions, with alcohol as the primary substance of abuse (NJ Chartbook of Substance Abuse Related Social Indicators from May 2013 for Hunterdon County).

One prevalent risk factor contributing to youth substance problems in Hunterdon County is the availability of alcohol and accessible places to hold parties. It is not uncommon for parents to leave their homes available to their teens to host parties, or have alcohol in the home that is easily accessible. Some parents believe they are keeping their kids 'safe' by taking the keys and not having teens drive after drinking. However they are not thinking about the other consequences, such as the effect of alcohol on the developing brain, mixing alcohol with prescription drugs which they may not realize the kids have taken, alcohol as a gateway to other drug use, sexual promiscuity, or driving the next morning while still intoxicated.

While many still feel that underage drinking is a 'rite of passage,' the tide is turning as underage drinking rates have decreased significantly in the last seven years. Data taken from the ADAS and PRIDE surveys show Past 30 day alcohol use for 9th graders has decreased from 33% in 2007 to 9% in 2014. For 12th graders, these rates have decreased from 69% in 2007 to 46% in 2014.

The following changes in strategies have helped to make changes in Hunterdon County:

  • Private Property Ordinances increased from 8% of county municipalities to 35%. Private Property Ordinances provide consequences to youth for underage drinking.
  • Social Hosting Campaign. Social hosting laws provide consequences to parent for underage drinking.
  • Know the Law Campaign and Sticker Shock campaigns (see photos below)
  • Use of breathalyzers at high school proms
  • Random drug testing at high schools
  • ID checks at football games
  • Banning the bleacher area and tailgating at football games
  • Parents Who Host Lose the Most Campaign
  • Youth Coalition PSA's. Visit the Coalition website to see the PSA's created by the youth members at
  • Annual Teen Safety Nights

Over 800 parents and students attend the Teen Safety Nights at Hunterdon Central high school each year - over 1,100 attended this year! Attending this event is a requirement for Juniors and their parents in order for students to be eligible for parking privileges in their senior year. "It is also a perfect opportunity to raise the awareness of the dangers of underage drinking and continue to move the needle in the right direction," said Peggy Dowd, Chair of the Underage Drinking Workgroup for the Hunterdon County Coalition.

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