September 13, 2007
Whether taking that first drink is because of peer pressure or to defy authority, teens often find themselves in trouble - not only because the legal drinking age is 21, but because they may become addicted. Find out how one teen got into trouble but now tells a story of hope. Dr. Mom has more.
Underage drinking is anyone under the age of 21 drinking alcohol. Alcohol is the drug of choice among youth, far exceeding the use of cigarettes and marijuana in this group. When youths drink, they tend to drink intensively, often consuming four to five drinks at one time.
Alcohol affects every part of the body from the brain to the muscles to every internal organ. The teenage brain is still developing and introducing alcohol at this time affects
- Motor coordination
- Impulse control
- Decision making
Why do teens drink?
- Nearly 10.8 million youth, ages 12-20, are underage drinkers
- Nearly 7.2 million are binge drinkers
- Nearly 2.3 million are heavy drinkers
- Approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die every year as a result of underage drining
- 1,900 from motor vehicle crashes
- 1,600 as a result from homicides
- 300 from suicide
- Hundreds from injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings
- Average age of first alcohol use is 13 years old
- Every day in the US, over 5,200 kids under age 15 have their first full drink of alcohol
- Underage drinking is estimated to account for between 12% and 20% of the US alcohol market.
Signs to look for:
- Desire to take risks
- Less connection to parents
- More independence
- More time spent with friends
- Increased stress
- Greater attention to what teens see and hear about alcohol
What can parents do?
- Problems remembering things they recently said or did
- Getting drunk on a regular basis
- Lying about how much alcohol he/she is using
- Believing that alcohol is necessary to have fun
- Having frequent hangovers
- Feeling run-down, depressed, or even suicidal
- Having blackouts – forgetting what he/she did while drinking
- Having problems at school or getting in trouble with the law
- Hanging out with a different group of friends
- Be involved in your teens’ lives
- Regularly spend time together
- Listen to your teen, make it easy for them to talk with you
- Set clear and appropriate limits, and enforce them
- Involve teens in after school activities
- Know where your teens are and who they are with
- Be a positive role model for your teens. Do not abuse alcohol or drugs
If you find it difficult to speak to your children about alcohol and drugs, seek the help of school counselors or your health care provider.
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