Parents who host

Parents Who Host, Lose The Most: Don't be a party to teenage drinking

Many well-meaning parents think that it is enough to take away car keys at their teen's parties so the teens can't drink and drive. Parents provide the alcohol or allow alcohol to be consumed based on the false belief that it's a rite of passage, especially at prom and graduation parties.

Good summertime messaging for parents available on this website: 



Contact us...

Emergencies - 9-1-1

Non-Emergencies - (406) 442-7883

Sheriff Leo C. Dutton

Undersheriff Jason Grimmis

Phone: (406)447-8204

Finance Officer:
Tammy Potter 
Phone: (406)447-8204

Mailing Address:
221 Breckenridge
Helena, MT 59601

How common is drinking among youth?


Drinking among teenagers is a serious problem in the United States. Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among teens.

  • 52% of eighth graders and 80% of high-school seniors have used alcohol at some time.
  • 25% of eighth graders and 62% of high-school
    seniors have been drunk.


Even though it is illegal for teens to drink, most say that it is easy to get alcohol. 71% of eighth graders and 95% of high-school seniors say that it would be easy to get alcohol if they wanted some.



According to the 2006 Montana Prevention Needs Assessment, administered to over 19,000 youth in grades 8, 10, and12, the following alcohol use was reported:

Having ever consumed alcohol, more than a few sips, in lifetime was reported by 52.9% of 8th graders; 72% of 10th graders; and 81.5% of 12th graders.

Binge drinking—drinking 5 or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks—was reported by 13.3% of 8th graders, 26.9% of 10th graders, and 37.9% of 12th graders.

Drinking at least one alcoholic beverage in the prior 30 days was reported by 23.3% of 8th graders; 40.7% of 10th graders; and 53.8% of 12th graders.



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Why is drinking a problem?

Teens often underestimate the risk that drinking can pose. In a recent survey, only 56% of eighth graders and 43% of high school seniors said that they thought drinking heavily once or twice a weekend was a great risk.

What are some of the real risks? Alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug. Not only does alcohol affect the mind and body in often unpredictable ways,
but teens lack the judgment and coping skills to handle alcohol wisely. As a result:

  • Alcohol-related traffic crashes are a major cause of death and disability among teens, and alcohol is linked with deaths of youth by drowning, fire, suicide, and homicide.
  • Teens that use alcohol are more likely to become sexually active at earlier ages, to have sexual intercourse more often, and to have unprotected sex.
  • Young people who drink are more likely than others to be victims of violent crime, including rape, aggravated assault, and robbery.
  • Teens that drink are more likely to have problems with school work and school conduct.
  • Youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to be  dependent on alcohol as adults than those who wait until age 21.

One national survey found that of the teens who reported drinking regularly (at least once a week) in the past month:

  • 49% had used marijuana, while 21% had used other illegal drugs in the last month
  • 50% had been in a physical fight in the past year
  • 16% had carried a weapon to school in the past month, and
  • 27% had engaged in risky sex.

The message is clear: Alcohol use is risky for young people. The longer children delay alcohol use, the less likely they are to develop problems associated with it, which is why it is so important for you to help your child avoid any alcohol use.



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Common Myths of Alcohol Use:

  • Myth: All teenagers will drink at some point, no matter how we try to stop them.
  • Fact: Although underage drinking is a serious problem, 81 percent of  adolescents ages 12 to 17 have chosen NOT to drink in the past year.


  • Myth: My son or daughter knows everything about drinking, so we don’t need
    to talk about it.
  • Fact: Many teenagers have dangerous misconceptions about alcohol—for example, they don’t realize that wine coolers have the same alcohol content as a shot of distilled spirits, or they think they can sober up by drinking coffee or getting fresh air.

  • Myth: What parents say or do won’t make any difference; teens only listen to
    their friends.
  • Fact: Parents can be very influential. A study of adolescents and their
    families conducted by the Research Institute on Addictions revealed that adolescent girls and boys, regardless of race or income level, whose parents supervise their friendships and activities, are less likely to engage in problem behaviors, including drinking.


  • Myth: He only drinks beer. It’s a phase—he’ll get over it, just like I did.
  • Fact: Adolescents who begin drinking before age 15 or younger are four times more likely to develop problems of alcohol use and dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21 or older. Many engage in binge drinking, which is drinking five or more drinks on one occasion. Some people mistakenly believe that beer and wine are light in alcohol content, when in fact they have the same alcohol content.


  • Myth: It’s okay for young people to drink, just as long as they don’t drive. The
    worst that can happen is that he’ll wake up with a terrible hangover.
  • Fact: Wrong. If you drink a lot of alcohol quickly, it can build up in your body so much that you can die from alcohol poisoning within only a few hours. As well, you’re more prone to injury, which can be serious or fatal. And, anyone who drinks and drives could severely injure or kill someone—including themselves.


  • Myth: Alcohol is not such a big deal, compared with illicit drugs.
  • Fact: Alcohol is a factor in the three leading causes of deaths among 14- and 15-year olds: unintentional injuries, homicides, and suicides.


  • Myth: Teens can’t become alcoholics because they haven’t been drinking long
  • Fact: You can develop alcoholism at any age. It depends on how much and how often you drink. As well, heavy drinking and binge drinking by anyone can be very harmful, whether or not they’re alcohol-dependent.




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Alcohol and Brain Development

Can drinking stop the teenage brain from growing? Duke University researchers scanned the brains of teens recovering from drinking problems. They found that teens that drank a lot had a smaller pre-frontal cortex than those who did not. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for judgment and critical thinking. Dr. Michael Fishman, the director of the adult addiction medicine program at Ridgeview Institute in Atlanta says, “If you have a prefrontal cortex that does not mature as it’s supposed to as an adolescent and young adult, it could possibly impede many different areas of our lives. We could become more impulsive, have poor decision-making, our judgment could be off, and we might not be able to learn as well as other people.” And—the research suggests—the damage is permanent. Dr. Fishman says, “You only have so much time for the brain to mature, and the brain is not as forgiving of an organ as the liver that might regenerate after damage.” He says parents should explain that the brain does not fully mature until age 25—and that binge drinking—even once a month—may cause damage. Dr. Fishman says, “This really isn’t even a scare tactic. It just is what it is, and it’s very, very damaging.”



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