Alcohol drinking among young people is on the increase. Thankfully, there is a significantly lower amount of drinking in Adventist schools. This should not make us complacent, though; we must aim for zero alcohol consumption by both faculty and students.
You mention a family history of alcoholism. This is common, although not often talked about. We need to break the silence on difficult issues in order to address them. If one has a first-degree relative (mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, uncle, or aunt) who is an alcoholic, the chances of addiction from exposure to alcohol doubles from the standard risk of 7 to 14 percent. The earlier the age of exposure to alcohol, the risk of possible alcoholism increases to greater than 30 percent for those who start to drink in their early teens. The global trend is for experimentation to start at younger ages (9- to 11-year-olds). It is not worth any risk, but for you even more so because of your family history. So stay away from alcohol!
Schools and churches should educate about the dangers of alcohol. A large body of robust scientific evidence shows the many dangers of alcohol. Most recently the renowned medical journal The Lancet showed compelling evidence that proves that the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s stance on abstaining from alcohol has been correct all along. It states that because of the very significant health risks—including cancer and cardiovascular diseases (on top of the addictive properties, associations with accidents, crime, domestic violence, and many diseases, despite a minimal benefit in reducing heart attacks)—there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.1 It is important for young people to know that it is not only “cool” to say no to alcohol, but also the smart and informed thing to do.
Additional and key information for schools and churches to understand is the importance of intentionally teaching the biblical concept that the body is the temple of God. The apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19). In her doctoral dissertation Alina Baltazar showed that in students who believed that their bodies are the temple of God, there was a 60 percent lower use of alcohol. This is powerful; and should not be surprising.2
Education alone is not enough. You, your parents, your teachers—all of us—need a vibrant, personal connection with Jesus. Service, mentoring, caring relationships, family bonding, and regularly having meals together also play significant roles in preventing at-risk behaviors in young people. We all play a part in nurturing resilience and preventing addiction. Together we can!
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.