Keep on Trunking

Addressing the Elephant in the Room

Danielle Mason-Rains
April 2, 2024 / 5 mins read

The Pink Elephant campaign returns for a third year this month. Businesses and organizations throughout Pottawatomie and Seminole county will host the campaign mascot, “Harry,” an inflatable pink elephant who symbolizes the importance of parents talking to their teens about alcohol. The campaign, which coincides with both National Alcohol Awareness Month and prom season, is intended to remind adults and youth about the state social host law and the dangers associated with underage drinking.

According to the Oklahoma Prevention Needs Assessment, alcohol is still the most widely used substance by youth. Furthermore, many teens report obtaining alcohol from adults with permission and that there is a low perceived risk associated with drinking. For these reasons, and the potential for harmful effects on youth brain development, it is important to raise awareness about underage drinking and remind adults about the social host law.

The state social host law in Oklahoma places the responsibility of underage drinking on the person providing the location for the gathering. A social host can be an adult or minor and they do not have to be physically present to be cited. Violation of the social host law can result in fines from $500-2500 and/or jail time.

The primary concern about underage drinking is the negative impact alcohol can have on youth brain development. The adolescent brain is not fully developed until about the age of 25 so alcohol has different effects on youth than it does adults. The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for judgment, behavior, and impulse control, is especially vulnerable to alcohol. Underage drinking can also damage the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Additionally, research has shown that youth who drink alcohol before the age of 15 are more likely to develop a substance use disorder than peers who delay use until the age of 21 or beyond.

The good news is that parents play an important role in the decisions that teens make about alcohol and other substances. Use this month as an opportunity to let your teen know your views on underage drinking and answer any questions they have. Remember, even though alcohol is the most commonly used substance by youth in Pottawatomie County, the statistics show that the vast majority of teens are not drinking alcohol. Adults often think that teens are going to drink anyway so it’s safer to provide a location for them but no amount of alcohol is safe for underage consumption.

It’s never too early or too late to have this important conversation with youth. If you are unsure of where to start, you can find resources at gatewaytoprevention.org/events or reach out on social media. If you are looking for your support on your recovery journey, do not hesitate to connect with us at 273-1170 x0. We would be honored to walk alongside you.

Danielle works at Gateway to Prevention & Recovery as the Program Director for the Drug Free Communities grant in Pottawatomie County. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma.