Underage drinking a problem in Cape County

By Holly Brantley

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Would you believe 80% of high school seniors surveyed in Cape County say they believe they wouldn't get caught by their parents if they decided to have a drink?

What's more, 29% admit to binge drinking in the past 30 days. This according to officials who held a public forum on underage drinking in Cape Girardeau, Tuesday.

People at the forum, including those from the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition say drinking is far too often looked at as a regular right of passage. But, recovered addicts say they know first hand what alcohol can lead to.

"My goal with my past is to use it to help others," said Cindy Koerner. "It's all about the here and now with teens, and not what could come."

Koerner shared her story of 12 years of addiction at the forum. She started drinking at age 15. After four trips to rehab, Koerner is finally happy to say she's been sober since October of 2008.

"I think it's important that youth be reached," said Koerner. "They need to know there's somebody they can talk to."

People at the forum shared personal stories to get to the bottom of the problem and find solutions. They say it affects the entire community.

"Communication is everything," said Koerner.

Koerner says rehab is important, but there's a problem with today's programs.

"There's not enough counseling in rehab," said Koerner. "You need to find out the reason for the problem, and learn skills for a normal life. Programs need to be at least six months and they need to be intense. They need to do more than keep you away from the alcohol."

"The biggest problem is that kids don't understand who they are," said Jack Smart of Teen Challenge.

Smart says drinking is never normal for a teenager. He says adults need to be good role models and stay active in prevention.

"On top of that, you have to have the guts to stand up and say there's a problem." said Smart.

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