Talk It Out NC concerned about impacts of pandemic on underage drinking

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Alcohol consumption is on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic, health experts say. WNCT photo

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Isolation, anxiety and depression are all things the pandemic has managed to increase. They are also factors alcohol abuse experts say lead to an increase in drinking.

Dr. Donita Robinson, professor of psychiatry at UNC-Chapel Hill said poor school performance and mood changes are the biggest indicators of alcohol abuse in teenagers.

“It’s really hard right now because guess what the pandemic is doing? It’s causing poor school performance when your doing online learning and it’s causing mood changes when students are isolated from their peers,” said Robinson.

It’s why she said parents need to be especially mindful of underage drinking in their teens.

“They’re doing school from home and if there’s alcohol in the home that’s accessible to them, they may have access to that and experiment with drinking alcohol without their parents knowing about,” said Robinson.

Kurtis Taylor knows all too well the impacts of alcohol abuse.

He’s 18 years sober and is now a Talk It Out ambassador for North Carolina.

“It’s important for me to try to do my part to encourage youth not to travel down the same roads that I once did,” said Taylor.

Taylor said his substance abuse impacted him in every way possible including homelessness.

“I’m extremely fortunate and blessed and grateful to be able to come out of that living the life that I’m living today,” said Taylor.

Today he’s a homeowner, a business owner, and a parent. He’s made a mission of helping others find resources to help them overcome substance abuse.

He and Robinson are participating in Talk It Out Tuesdays. It’s a series of webinars to help parents understand the impacts of underage drinking.

“We hope they begin to have this conversation. We hope they understand the importance of having this conversation an we’re fortunate that we’re bring together all national experts,” Taylor said.

Robinson said the negative impact of drinking is not only seen in teenagers but in college students as well. While college students were away from each other for months, they may feel the need to make up for lost time.

“I think we’ve already seen that here in Chapel Hill with excitement after a sports win and other decisions that college students have made when they came back to campus and were with their social group, and they congregated and didn’t wear mask. Things like that that may be poor choices during a pandemic,” said Robinson.

The Talk It Out virtual series will be held every Wednesday throughout March. Click here to register. Robinson will speak March 16 about the impacts of drinking on the adolescent brain.

Click here to find resources on speaking with teens about underage drinking.

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