Underage drinking is a significant health concern for teens, and this is particularly true because of their underdeveloped brains. The brains of adolescents are still growing and changing. The regular presence of alcohol in the bloodstream would affect anyone. However, because of their continued growth during adolescence, teens are at a higher risk for health concerns related to alcohol.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 9 million children and teens (between the ages of 12 and 20) reported that they drank alcohol in the previous month. This group accounts for about 25% of the all those under the age of 20 in the United States.
Typically, teens and young adults do not drink as often as adults, but they do drink more heavily in one sitting. For instance, teens and young adults tend to binge drink, having as many as five or more drinks on one occasion. However, the good news is that the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicates that there was a drop in the amount of youth who were binge drinking between 2002 and 2012. Yet, the number of teens who continue to binge drink remains high – almost 6 million youth between the ages of 12 and 20 reported to binge drink and 1.7 million youth reported that they drink heavily.
Reports also indicate that of those who are currently drinking and who are underage, 80% of them drink in a group, 5.5% of them drink alone, and 14.5% of them drink while in the presence of one other person.
It can be challenging to limit the use of alcohol as parents if you yourself drink from time to time. Furthermore, drinking is so well accepted in society that it’s difficult to place a boundary against something that your teens are going to encounter at almost any social gathering they attend outside of school. Even though you as parents might strictly enforce no drinking with your teen, he or she might do so anyway because of such easy access to it.
Nonetheless, you can encourage your teen to stay away from alcohol by thinking through an evening together and making a plan to stay sober. The following might be an example of a plan that you and your teen develop:
- Go out early in the night when most people are still somewhat sober, and leave early before the night gets too carried away.
- Bring only enough money with you to get back and forth from home. If you’re riding with your friends, then go out with as little money as you feel comfortable with. This will keep you from spending money on drinks when you’re tempted.
- If you do decide to participate in the ritual of ordering something at the bar, get yourself a non-alcoholic drink. You can stay cool with a drink in your hand, but not have to manage the hangover in the morning.
- Ask your friends to keep an eye on you so that the allure of drinking doesn’t tempt you. From a distance, it looks fun, but you know you’ll regret it later.
- Stay communicative with your parents. Tell them where you’re going and when you’ll be back. This will also be a way of being held accountable to a non-drinking lifestyle.
Despite the social acceptance of alcohol, it remains to be incredibly dangerous. Even though it’s not the most addictive drug there is – cocaine and heroin significantly surpass alcohol in its addictive quality – alcohol continues to be the cause of millions of deaths around the world. For instance, it is a factor involved in the cause of car accidents and a large percentage of crime. For instance, 40% of those in prison were under the influence of alcohol while they committed their crimes. Although alcohol isn’t the deciding factor on whether these inmates would have committed their crime or not, alcohol does lower inhibitions and affect one’s judgment. Furthermore, many suicides take place because of effect of alcohol. If that person were not under the influence, it’s possible that he or she would have made a different choice.
Share the above statistics with your teen to help elicit his or her desire to not drink. Between having a plan and encouraging sobriety, there’s a chance your teen will move through adolescence without alcohol.