LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -

Youth substance abuse was the focus of a community conversation at Viterbo University Tuesday.

One in three students in our community is drinking alcohol underage. That means this issue touches just about every family in our area.

Tuesday's conversation talked about talked about how substance abuse among young people starts, and what it leads to. Experts say the topic is important because the earlier a young person develops a problem the higher risk of long-term problems.

The good news is the earlier the problem is addressed, the more effective the intervention is.

It's something that can be handled at the family level, but it's a problem the community has to address as well. "What type of a culture are we building in to our young people?  Is every event a drinking event?  How often do we go to weddings, do we go to funerals, do we go to parties and concerts and they can all become drinking events and that gets instilled in our young people and so just to be able to address that," said Keith Lease from Coulee Council on Addictions.

The panel was from a wide range of backgrounds. From a college graduate that has been dealing with mental health issues since the 6th grade, to a mom who is 77 days sober and says she started drinking when she was 13.

Damian Thundercloud works with people in the Ho Chunk nation and says the biggest prevention there is, is family. "Being able to talk with your kids, figuring out what's going on in school, what's going on with them in their personal life, and just talking with them about drinking in general," said Thundercloud, "Kids these days are smarter, they have the world at their fingertips, so they're able to understand this information and process that information."

Youth substance abuse has become even more complicated in the age of social media. Decision-making for young people is very peer-driven. The 24/7 access to what friends are doing at parties or on the weekend can make it tough for a young person struggling with substance abuse.

Tuesday's event was organized by the La Crosse County Prevention Network.