In Drugs & Addictions, Parents

Underage Drinking

Underage Drinking

Underage drinking is a dangerous problem. Parents can help their children and teens with the social draw of underage drinking; they should learn and share the facts and statistics on alcohol abuse, addiction, and teenage drunk driving. Knowledge is power and the attitudes of the parents is paramount.

What is underage drinking?

Underage drinking is a crime and occurs when young people consume alcoholic beverages before the legal age to do so. Federal law has established that the national minimum drinking age is 21, though each state has variations of this law and their own exceptions. All states prohibit the possession of alcohol, and the sale or purchase of alcohol to people under the age of 21.

What happens to the brain and body when alcohol is consumed?

Per WebMD , after ingesting beer, wine, etc. alcohol enters the bloodstream from the stomach and small intestine, and travels to the brain. Alcohol slows reaction time, lessens coordination, impairs vision and impairs problem solving abilities. The brain of a teenager is still developing and will continue to do so until the early twenties. Memory is sure to be affected by abusing alcohol.

Why do teenagers drink?

Many, but not all, teens experience peer pressure to drink alcohol in social situations. When it seems that “everyone else” is drinking, teens may feel more accepted by participating and when the effects of alcohol lowers their inhibitions they likely feel more at ease talking with individuals and groups. It is easy to begin drinking as part of socializing, but problems grow from drinking in excess.

Teenagers are known to “bing drink”. Bing drinking is when five or more drinks are consumed with the goal of becoming drunk. This is a very harmful form of drinking because the overwhelms the body and alcohol is a poision. When too much is ingested, death can occur.

Parents can teach the facts about binge drinking and the dangerous effects. Many teens drink only when socializing, and then drink to get drunk. They don’t realize the dangers because they are sober maybe most of the week, and then on the weekends they “party” and get drunk and don’t realize that they are, in fact, addicted to alcohol.

About Teenage Alcohol Addiction

Teens are especially susceptible to the addictive effects of alcohol. Parents should be knowledgeable about this subject and share their attitudes along with facts to teach their kids about the very real dangers of addiction.

Alcohol is highly addictive and even lethal in severe doses. For adults, moderate drinking, having a glass of wine with a meal, for example, can be good for the heart. However, this is not true for teens. Adults that control their intake may enjoy a glass of wine or a beer now and then. But for teens, alcohol is harder to control and addiction can take over their lives.

Young people can unwittingly harm their growing brains and bodies by consuming alcohol and they are more prone than adults to have immediate addiction. The body feels good with this drug and will want it again. Children and teens who have experienced alcohol, alone or socially, are susceptible to developing problems.

A person addicted to alcohol must drink in order to function normally, as their mind and body believe that alcohol is needed in the same sense as food and water. Alcohol addiction eventually causes problems in every area of the addict’s life. Alcoholism is an addiction shared by more than 18 million people in the United States.

Alcohol abuse statistics

Alcohol facts and statistics show that alcohol abuse can begin as teenage drinking which may then develop into a lifelong addiction.

Many youths in America are guilty of underage drinking and also driving while under the influence as shown in this FBI Arrest Statistics report from 1994-2010.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs, and is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth.”

CDC Survey

Per this Youth Risk Behavior survey conducted in 2011, a fair percentage of high school students indulged in alcohol and risky behavior within the 30 days prior to the survey. If the results are typical, parents should discuss with their children:

– 39 percent of this high school group consumed some amount of alcohol

– 22 percent admitted to binge drinking

– 8 percent drove after consuming alcohol

– 24 percent rode with a driver who consumed alcohol

Underage Drinking Consequences

There are dangerous consequences for underage drinking. Teens may lose themselves and their academic focus when alcohol takes hold. Parents need to relay the facts to their children and promote their own opinions and expectations.

Drinking alcohol before the age of 21 is not just illegal, it can lead to further problems. Teens often assume they are invincible and when that perception is combined with intoxication, it often leads to drunk driving.

  • Under age drinking is cause for arrest.
  • Driving under the influence is cause for arrest.
  • Drunk driving leads to the deaths of about 4,000 teenagers per year
  • With lower inhibitions, teenage drug use is more likely and grades plummet
  • More likely to drop out of high school
  • More likely to be an adult who abuses alcohol

In addition, drinking alcohol puts teens at risk for assault, robbery, and rape. Decision making is impaired, reflexes are slowed, and problem solving abilities are nearly non-existent. The brain can be damaged because it is still growing. Parents can help by discussing the facts about alcohol and the very real problems of addiction. Parents should include talks about drug use and teen drug abuse statistics.

How can parents help?

Teenagers are still children, and children look to their parents as the frontline for authority and guidance.

By expressing expectations and having open discussions about alcohol and drug use, teens will be more likely to listen to their parents and share their own experiences. By pooling with school and the community, activities can be designed to occupy the need for teens to socialize and have fun together without alcohol or substance abuse.

When teens have an outlet for adventure that does not include alcohol, they are more likely to learn how to socialize without it. Schools, churches, and community centers all have programs that include sports, camps, and more. Teens should be knowledgable about underaged drinking and have alcohol abuse facts, even if a parent doesn’t think their environment includes these issues.

Parents can begin talking to children about drugs and alcohol while in grade school. Parents need to realize that they are role models and their actions are telling their kids how to behave. If a parent comes home after a hard day and “needs a drink”, that child will want to emulate this behavior to self comfort. When kids don’t see alcohol consumed in their home and watch their parents solve problems without leaning on cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs, they are shown strength and will want to emulate this. However, parents should discuss alcohol and drugs to prepare them for upcoming social situations.

Underage drinking is not as big of a problem as it has been in years past. All the evidence shows that alcohol use is in decline among teenagers. With parents, schools, and the community joining together to provide outlets for teenagers to play, engage with one another in sober acitivities, and compete in sports, or enjoy camping, etc., maybe our culture can eliminate the tragedy of youthful addictions and deaths. Parents are the primary source of guidance and authority so the teaching begins at home.

Parent should never underestimate the power of their influence and teachings. When children are small it is easy to discuss opinions and expectations about drug use and alcohol, and it is the perfect time to teach about drunk driving and the perils of getting behind the wheel when intoxicated. Parents have the ability to shape the minds and values of their children and should not wait until teenage years to begin discussions; discussions should be a continuing and shared conversation throught the child’s development into adulthood.

Underage drinking is a tragic example of kids “having fun” in all the wrong ways and the repercussions are often not temporary, but life habits. Parents can affect the outcome before, during, and after alcohol is consumed.

Sources: http://teens.webmd.com/teens-and-alcohol ; http://www.cdc.gov/MMWR/PDF/SS/SS6104.PDF

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