A youth-behavior survey given to Carson City students last year indicates that 30.5 percent of high school students and 38.8 percent of middle school students first drank alcohol prior to turning 13.
"When you think of first use before the age of 13, one of the startling things is that the younger people start drinking, the higher the chance of developing the whole problem of dependence becomes," said Eric Ohlson, executive director of the Community Council on Youth.
The nonprofit youth council partners with other city organizations to provide programs and opportunities for youth in Carson City. It is sponsoring an alcohol-awareness night Wednesday at Eagle Valley Middle School to discuss these types of statistics and collaborate on ideas.
The meeting coincides with national Alcohol Awareness Month, started in 1987 by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
"(Drinking) causes more significant problems than really all other substance issues," Ohlson said. "I think a lot of people don't think about it that way. This event is a hope to raise some awareness."
A 2003 Nevada Juvenile Justice Data Collection Report showed that in Carson City, there was a rate of 29.7 cases per 1,000 youth aged 5-17 for driving under the influence, drunkenness or violation of liquor laws.
"What's interesting is that the state as a whole is at 6.6," Ohlson said.
The sole county with a higher rate per 1,000 youth was Pershing, at 30.4. Nearby counties were at 29.0 in Douglas, 9.8 in Lyon, 15.6 in Storey and 11.7 in Washoe.
"I think a lot of people get desensitized to (underage drinking) and resign themselves that there's not much they can do about it," Ohlson said.
The evening will begin with a short film called "This Place" that addresses the state of underage drinking, Ohlson said.
A panel of CCOY members will include a representative from the Carson City Sheriff's Department, Carson High School's 'Stand Tall Don't Fall' anti-drinking program, the Carson City School District and a youth-prevention organization.
Ohlson plans to ask each to address teenage drinking in Carson City, followed by a comment session.
"You're really looking at that at least half of the kids are acknowledging that they use alcohol," he said.
• Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com or 881-1219.
If you go
WHAT: Alcohol Awareness Night
WHEN: 7-8 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Eagle Valley Middle School library, 4151 E. Fifth St.
CALL: Eric Ohlson at 841-4730. RSVPs desired, but not required