Study examines where teens get booze

Though a Columbia County woman was arrested Saturday for providing alcohol to teenage drinkers, what she is alleged to have done is not unusual, according to a just released study.

Statistics released this week indicate that about a quarter of teens who drink get their booze from a parent or older family member, according to the most recent survey from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Nicholas Ellinger, the vice president of strategic outreach, with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the research shows how much influence adults have over teen drinking.

“It shows that when parents give alcohol to their kids that they are more likely to drink more outside of the home,” he said.

Rachel Sheree Arrington, 42, of Greenway Drive, was arrested Saturday at an after-prom party at her Evans home along with two dozen minors.

She was charged with misdemeanor counts of contributing to delinquency of a minor and providing alcohol to any person under 21 years of age. She was released from the Columbia County Detention Center after posting a $3,200 bond, according to jail records.

Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said he couldn’t comment on the case against Arrington but said that although it isn’t common, he has seen these types of arrests happen every few years.

One occurred in 2007, when a 43-year-old woman was arrested along with 11 teens at an after prom party in the Springlakes neighborhood. In that case, the Martinez parent was sentenced to five years’ probation and 40 days in jail on charges that she provided alcohol to minors during a party at her home.

“Some parents may view this as an inherent right of passage that these teenagers are going to drink and I’m going to provide them a safe place to do so,” Morris said. “The fact is there is no safe place for underage alcohol consumption.”

Ellinger said that parents who set and enforce clear rules about alcohol are 30 percent less likely to have teens that have a problem with alcohol.

Some studies indicate that affluent communities have a higher prevalence in teen drinking.

A 2009 study of more than 6,000 teens by Wake Forest University researchers, which examined the connection between community characteristics and alcohol use, noted that teens from communities with higher median household income were more likely to drink alcohol.

Researchers concluded adolescents in more affluent communities were exposed to more parental drinking, had easier access to alcohol and experienced more favorable attitudes toward drinking, which increases their risk of alcohol use.

In Saturday’s incident, Superior Court Judge Wade Padgett sentenced the teens to pay a $250 fine, serve eight hours of community service and serve six months on probation, during which they have a midnight curfew and must submit to random drug screenings.

Padgett said some parents do allow their teenage sons and daughters to drink at home, but he thinks local cases in which adults provide it to other teens are rare.

“What I have seen more often than not is they get it from older teenagers,” Padgett said. “The lions share of local cases are where former classmates, brother of friends will buy it for younger teenagers.”

Padgett, who regularly gives talks on the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse to parents and their teen children, said that prom season is an especially dangerous time of year.

“For some reason locally, we think prom night is the night you are supposed to try to get away with everything you ever dreamed of getting away with,” he said. “It’s the worst time to do that.”

Padgett said that parents who allow their children and their teen friends to drink are sending a mixed message about which laws can be obeyed or ignored.

Morris agrees. He said whatever the social attitudes or intentions, adults who provide alcohol to minors are breaking the law and authorities will continue to hold them accountable.

“They are putting themselves, their future and that of others at risk,” Morris said. “They should reconsider that logic.”

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