Teens & Alcohol

Dangers of Teen Drinking

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. Approximately 11% of all the alcohol that is consumed across the Unites States is by teens, and 90% of this alcohol is consumed by binge drinking. Binge drinking is the act of consuming alcohol with the intent of becoming intoxicated over a short period of time. Because of this, on average, teen drinkers consume more alcoholic drinks per occasion than adults do. Drinking at an early age often leads to alcoholism. Recent studies show that if teens start drinking between the ages of 15 and 16, they are five times more likely to become alcohol dependent as adults compared to those who started drinking at the legal age of 21. Additionally, these teens are five times more likely to drop out of school.

All that being said, teen drinking has actually been on the decline since the 1990’s, with 2015 marking a historical low in terms of teen alcohol abuse. However, teen drinking is still a problem. On average, over 4,300 teenagers die every year due to an alcohol-related accident. Roughly 33% of these deaths are due auto accidents, 33% are due to homicides, and the rest are due to suicides, drownings, falls, and alcohol poisoning. These staggering figures are why organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) are dedicated to fighting against teen alcohol abuse.

Why Teens Drinks and the Consequences that Follow

Every day, more than 4,750 male and females under the age of 16 have their first full drink of alcohol. For males, the average age for their first drink is the age of 11, where for females, their average age of a first drink is 13. But why do teens drink? Below is a list of several factors that lead to underage drinking:

  1. Peer pressure – Teenage years are often full of wanting to fit in and be with the “cool” crowd. Many teens feel that if their friends are drinking then they need to do it as well.
  2. Genetics – Studies show that teens with parents or siblings who are alcoholics are four times more likely to develop alcohol problems.
  3. Stress – As with adults, stress is a leading factor of teen alcohol abuse. Teens are often more prone to be stressed for a number of reasons. Family problems, school problems, relationships, and physical appearance are all stress-related concerns.
  4. Environment – Children who grow up in environments where alcohol is consumed often by their parents or peers have an increased risk of starting to drink at an early age.

Consequences often follow if a teen develops a drinking problem. Not only are they more susceptible to being injured when alcohol is involved, but many teens could suffer different consequences related to the substance. Statistics show that people who start drinking at an early age are more likely to experiment with other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. Moreover, alcohol abuse often affects the teens schooling. Bad grades, skipping class, and sudden changes in friends have been found to be direct results of alcohol abuse. Moreover, drinking at a young age leaves teens more prone to suffering from depression and anxiety than those who do not drink.

Preventing Teen Alcohol Abuse

No parent wants a child to become addicted to alcohol at an early age. Unfortunately, this can cause some adults to overlook potential warning signs of abuse. However, taking a proactive approach is always best. Here are ways that teachers, mentors, and educators can help prevent teen alcohol addiction, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

  1. Talk to your kids early about alcohol abuse. Be open and listen to their concerns at the same time you are addressing yours. Let them know about the dangers of alcohol and any family history of alcohol abuse.
  2. Set clear expectations for teens, administer consistent discipline, and take steps to praise positive behavior and boost their self esteem.
  3. Strengthen family bonding.
  4. Develop teens’ “personal, social, and resistance skills.”
  5. Encourage teenagers to take leadership roles in school and extracurricular activities.
  6. Lead by example.

References:
https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/underage-drinking
https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm

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