NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – Community members and law enforcement officers came together Wednesday night to talk about the growing underage drinking and substance abuse epidemic.
The average age most people in North Carolina try alcohol for the first time is 14. That’s a huge concern for local law enforcement officers who say drug and alcohol use among kids in eastern North Carolina is skyrocketing.
Local advocates and law enforcement officers hosted a town hall in New Bern Wednesday night to teach parents how to recognize signs of substance abuse.
“It’s really getting real with these people and telling them the facts.. That there’s going to be a certain number of people that attend tonight that might not be with us in a couple years because of this epidemic that we’re dealing with,” said NC ALE Special Agent Chip Hughes.
Alcohol Law Enforcement officers walked participants through a mock bedroom scene to show them what to look for.
“Sadly, we’re finding out these kids are playing around with this stuff, both alcohol and drugs in middle school,” said Chip Chagnon, Chairman of the Craven County ABC Board.
Now, officers are taking a new approach to stopping the epidemic.
“It’s not always about us locking people up, even though that is a big part of it. We have to educate them on the dangers,” Hughes said.
Dozens of community members came out to learn how to better protect young people in their lives and to connect with local resources for help.
“We want parents to be aware of what their kids are doing and it’s as simple as going in time to time and checking your child’s room,” Hughes said.
This is the fifth event in the When Love is Not Enough series. Alcohol Law Enforcement officers plan to bring the program to other areas across the state.