According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), underage drinking is the most commonly abused drug in the United States and is responsible for more than 3,200 deaths of youths each year. In fact, the CDC goes on to report that in the United States, adolescents aged between 12 – 20 years old drink 11% of all alcohol consumed. In this same age group, nearly 10.8 million youths are known to be underage drinkers. These remarkable statistics show that underage drinking is very much a problem, having a huge impact on the youth of today.
Why is Underage Drinking a Problem?
More than 70% of teenagers have had at least one alcoholic drink by the time they are 18 years old, and the problem is that youths are much more likely to binge drink in large quantities which can be dangerous. Binge drinking can lead to accidents, car crashes, drowning, serious injury, and death from injury or alcohol poisoning.
Aside from the physical dangers of binge drinking, alcohol can have a detrimental impact on development, education, lifestyle choices, and emotional wellbeing. For example, regular alcohol abuse in youths can disrupt normal growth, alter sexual development, and have lifelong altering effects on brain development. Interaction at school can deteriorate resulting in failing grades, social relationships can fall apart causing depression, and it can lead to the misuse of other drugs, unwanted pregnancy, or being the perpetrator or victim of assault and other crimes. Drinking not only affects the person involved but those around them. Approximately 45% of people who die in a car crash caused by a drunk driver under age 21 are people that are not the driver. Therefore underage drinking is a serious problem that impacts not just the youth, but everyone around them.
Strategies to Prevent Underage Drinking
Despite the prevalence, many strategies can be put in place to help prevent underage drinking. At home, it is important to be influential in the early years creating strong family bonds. Play an active role in your child’s life and pay attention to their activities and behaviors as a teenager. Listen and communicate with your child, use positive reinforcement, be consistent with setting the rules, and consistent with letting your teenager know your thoughts on underage drinking. Look out for the signs of underage drinking, and get your teen help before it’s too late.
Communities can work together to alter the perception that underage drinking is inevitable. Work within the local community to create welcoming, alcohol-free places for teenagers to congregate. Talk to teens about the unhealthy side of drinking alcohol, raising awareness that it too can have serious negative effects, just like smoking and drugs can.
Schools can have a great impact on tackling underage drinking. Interactive teaching programs can engagingly discuss age-appropriate information about alcohol, including the short- and long-term effects of alcohol use. Teachers must be adequately trained to discuss and teach sessions about underage drinking, and it is useful to have a school nurse or counselor available should a teenager seek confidential support. Multiple sessions throughout the school year, and continued regularly from the beginning to the end of school maintain a regular, open, and honest dialogue about underage drinking and alcohol abuse. If these discussions start early, long before a youth thinks about drinking alcohol, it may help them in their decision as to whether to accept an alcoholic drink or not.
If you have any concerns about your teenager and alcohol, Achieve Whole Recovery is here to support you, your teenager, and your whole family. We offer a variety of therapy services including substance abuse, and addiction counseling. Our team of experienced medical professionals and licensed professional counselors are well equipped to support anyone wanting to overcome alcohol or drug addiction, or who is facing mental health problems. Our treatment plans are uniquely tailored to suit the needs of each individual. Contact us today by reaching out to an addiction recovery specialist or giving us a call!