Interact for Health

Begin Unbuzzed helps Norwood adults recognize pressures that youths face to drink

(Feb 13th, 2017)

Sometimes the spark for community health promotion can come from something as simple as a child's question.

That's just what happened for one of our Thriving Communities grantees, the Norwood Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Coalition. It's working to reduce underage drinking in Norwood.

At one of the group's steering committee meetings, Joanne Payne told how her child had asked if alcohol was a drug, and if so, why did her parents drink? Payne and her husband then decided not to drink until all their children turned 21. But because the Paynes' friends still drank, they experienced the peer pressure that young people can face about drinking. That understanding can be critical to helping young people abstain.

"We knew we had to expand our messaging to parents and other caring adults, because youth will not make the decision to stay away from alcohol ... without support and guidance," says Angela Pancella of the Norwood coalition.

The group adopted the Paynes' idea and developed Begin Unbuzzed. During January 2017, 31 Norwood residents pledged to abstain from or to monitor their drinking and not post about alcohol on social media. Throughout the month they took part in alcohol-free events at Norwood businesses such as Brick Coffee Co. and Stone Lanes bowling alley.

"Begin Unbuzzed sensitized many people to the pressures our youth face from living in a culture where alcohol is perceived as a stress reliever or a must-have at social occasions," Pancella says.

The coalition has made progress toward reducing underage drinking. The 2016 Student Drug Use Survey by PreventionFIRST! found that 10 percent of Norwood seventh- through 12th-graders reported using alcohol in the previous month. That's down from 25 percent in 2006. The group would like to further reduce that to 1 percent by 2020, Pancella says.

"By a very small act of taking a pledge, we showed we stand in solidarity with (young people) when they choose to resist pressures to drink," she says.

The Norwood coalition plans to hold Begin Unbuzzed again in January 2018.