Many parents do not realize how early underage drinking really starts. Parents usually start to worry about their son or daughter drinking alcohol, once the teen reaches 15 or 16 years of age. However, underage drinking will sometimes begin earlier, even in the preteen years. You should begin encouraging your teen to avoid alcohol by talking to him or her about the risks and effects of underage drinking and the importance of making good decisions by avoiding uncomfortable situations involving alcohol all together.
Your teen should also know if there is a history of alcoholism in your family. Many young adults could possibly be saved from ever having an addiction to alcohol, by knowing at an early age, that alcohol may not be something they can handle, even in small amounts, because of a genetic risk in their family.
Why do teens drink alcohol?
Underage drinking attracts many adolescents and teenagers. The physical changes that puberty puts on their bodies can make them feel very self-conscious, which in turn makes them susceptible to wanting to experiment with alcohol, just to fit in to certain groups or cliques. Challenging situations, such as the transition from junior high to high school, peer pressure from new friends, dealing with their parents divorce, or moving can also tempt your teen to drink alcohol. Other risk factors for a teen to begin to drink are, but are not limited to; their parents drink alcohol, there is a history of abuse, mental health issues, their friends drink or use drugs. Your son or daughter may not realize that this decision to use alcohol to cope, could have very dangerous consequences.
Effects of Teenage Drinking
Adults who began drinking in their teens, are much more likely to develop a dependence on drugs or alcohol, than are people who wait until they are of legal age to begin drinking. Young adults who drink alcohol, tend to have lower test scores, and have behavioral problems at school. Research shows that alcohol use can distort a teen’s mental development. This can be distortion can often times be permanent. Teenagers who drink alcohol, tend to become sexually active at an earlier age than teens who do not drink. Young adults who drink alcohol, are also more likely to have unprotected sex as well, due to the fact that when drinking they are not thinking clearly and tend to make bad decisions. Teens who drink are more likely to be hurt in a violent crime, such as rape, assault or robbery. The leading cause of teenage deaths are alcohol related. Teen suicides, alcohol poisoning, drownings, car accidents and murders are also linked to alcohol abuse in teens.
Things Your Teen Should Know About Alcohol
According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 35.1 percent of 15-year-olds report that they have had at least 1 drink in their lives.
Serious injuries – More than 190,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries in 2008 alone.
According to the 2013 NSDUH, approximately 1.4 million people (about 3.7 percent) ages 12–20 engaged in heavy drinking (4.6 percent of males and 2.7 percent of females).
About 8.7 million people ages 12–20 (22.7 percent of this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the past month (23 percent of males and 22.5 percent of females).
According to the 2013 NSDUH, approximately 5.4 million people (about 14.2 percent) ages 12–20 engaged in binge drinking (15.8 percent of males and 12.4 percent of females).
Death – 4,358 people under age 21 die each year from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning.
Signs Your Teen is Drinking Alcohol
*Pay close attention to these warning signs that may indicate that your teen has been drinking.
Behavioral problems in school
Poor test scores
Loss of interest in sports, band, or other activities.
Lack of personal hygiene.
New peer groups
Smelling alcohol on their breath
Finding alcohol or empty bottles, or lids in their room
Slurred or slow speech
Loss of short term memory
It isn’t always easy to talk to your son or daughter about the effects from underage drinking, but the time to begin is now. You may not be sure of how to start the conversation, and when you do, your teen may dodge the conversation all together. You must choose the correct time to bring up the subject of underage drinking in a relaxed setting. You don’t have to speak on every topic right away. Talking often, to your son or daughter about alcohol, and its risks, often works better than having one long discussion.
Ask your son or daughter what their thoughts on alcohol are. If you speak to them about this in a friendly tone, they were usually more willing to open up rather than if they feel they are being accused. Explain to them that alcohol is a drug and that it is a crime for them to consume it. Alcohol slows down the mind and body, and can eventually lead to dependency.
Teenagers often times, confuse the feeling or “buzz” they get from alcohol as making them popular or feel better about themselves. Explain to your teen that alcohol can make you feel “high” but alcohol is in fact a depressant that masks sadness and when the alcohol runs out, the sadness comes back, with more force. This is where depression can set in.
Speak with your teenager about the reasons not to drink alcohol. Do not try to scare them, as this tactic never works. If there is a history of family members with drinking problems, tell your son or daughter. Discourage them from ever even trying alcohol since there is a chance they could develop a drinking problem as well.
Discuss different tactics on responding to peer pressure. Give your teen examples of things to say to their friends when offered an alcoholic beverage, such as “Do you have juice”, or simply by saying “No, thank you”.
If you drink, be ready to discuss this as well with your teenager. Be honest with your teen. When they ask you why you drink, tell them why. If your teen asks you if you drank alcohol in your teens, be honest once again. If you did not drink as a teen, explain why you chose not to, and give examples of circumstances and how you got out of those situations. If you did drink as an underage teen, give them examples of the negative results of your choices.
Prevent underage drinking, by developing a strong relationship with your son or daughter. Support them by helping them build self-esteem and the tools to stand up for themselves and ignore peer pressure. Pay close attention to your teens friends, and know where your child is at all times. Get to know your teenagers friends, and their parents. If your son or daughters friends drink, your teen will probably drink with them. Encourage good friendships. Set down ground rules and enforce punishment accordingly. Let your son or daughter know your rules on going to parties where alcohol is served, not riding with anyone who has been drinking, and so on. Be your child’s example. If you drink, do it in moderation and explain the differences in teen drinking alcohol and when adults drink.
If you think that your teen has been drinking alcohol, talk to him or her. Let your teen know that continuing use of alcohol will result in loss of privileges. Enforce your ground rules.
If you feel that your teenager has a drinking problem, give us a call to speak with one of our alcohol specialists. We can help you determine whether your son or daughter has a dependency to alcohol. Teenagers who have a problem with alcoholism tend to not realize they have a problem on their own.
For more information, or to answer any questions you may have, call one of our counselors now.