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Underage Drinking Down In South Dakota

November 28, 2011, 4:56 PM by Brady Mallory

Underage Drinking Down In South Dakota
SIOUX FALLS, SD - The Huron bar owner, already accused of getting three girls drunk and then raping them at his business, is in more trouble.

Authorities say they caught eleven minors in the El Cuervo Bar over the weekend, and five of the kids were drinking.

Despite the allegations in Huron, studies show underage drinking is not as prevalent in South Dakota as it once was.

As of 2009, 40 percent of teens and kids in South Dakota admitted to underage drinking.

"In the '90s and early 2000s, the rates were about 50 to 60 percent of kids drinking during any given month," Director of Prevention at the Carroll Institute Betsy Atwood said.

Now, South Dakota is close to the national rate of 41 percent.  According to the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey, just 31 percent of kids in the Sioux Falls area use alcohol.  Atwood said the goal is to get the percentage to decrease by at least two percent when the new numbers are released every two years.

Counselors say sexual abuse charges in Huron are not the only reasons minors should stick with a glass of milk.

"People's minds develop until they're 24, approximately. As people develop, their brains can't develop and function as well as it could if it was given a chance to succeed as best it could without alcohol or drugs," Chemical Dependency Counselor at the Carroll Institute Kim Questad said.

Even though the numbers are down in South Dakota and in the Sioux Falls area, prevention remains a top priority because alcohol is still the number one substance kids and teens reach for.

"It's available. It's readily available. It's a legal substance to those over the age of 21, and its appearance gives the appearance of being older. Youth today, unfortunately, want to be older and in with the crowd who wants to be having a good time," Questad said.

Questad teaches classes for kids who've had underage-alcohol violations. Through videos, worksheets and self-reflection, she says the students become more thoughtful about long-term damages of underage drinking.  Even though she said classes are fuller than ever and more widespread, the best prevention of underage drinking still comes from mom and dad.

"Even though kids maybe don't want to admit it, knowing your parents are concerned, knowing they want you to make the smart choice, has the biggest effect on them," Atwood said.

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