A town hall meeting in Perth Amboy focused on the effects and consequences of underage drinking. The message was not only delivered by experts in the field of drug and alcohol dependency; local students in attendance also heard from today's youth and people who battled alcoholism at a young age.

Perth Amboy town hall
(Left to right) Perth Amboy Police Officer Henry Rodgers, Perth Amboy High School Counselor Kristy Roman, a person in recovery, and Carlos Soto of the Youth Community Leadership Academy (Townsquare Media)

A person in recovery who went only by the name 'Jenna' bravely spoke of her problem drinking that began at the age of 13. She started in order to fit in with her middle school's popular crowd, but as the drinking progressed through high school, Jenna started feeling the non-physical effects.

"It was causing pain for not only me, but for my family and the people around me," she told the crowd at the YMCA - Raritan Bay Area. "I didn't want to live like that anymore."

Jenna said she eventually hit a "spiritual bottom," and she will be nine months clean on May 5.

"My life today is very uncomplicated," she added. "It is joyful. It is less dramatic."

Carlos Soto, a local member of the Youth Community Leadership Academy, stressed the importance of not falling victim to peer pressure.

"I feel like teens needs to know that we don't have to drink to fit in," Soto said.

He noted that when parents tell their children not to drink alcohol, kids take that message as a demand, not as wisdom.

According to a Monitoring Our Future study, binge drinking among 12th graders rose significantly in 2012, from 22 to 24 percent. Binge drinking has been defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 26.3 percent of 12 to 20 year olds (representing 10 million youth) reported drinking alcohol in the past month.

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