- Special Sections
By KELLY SICKAFOOSE
Substance Abuse Awareness Council
Youth hear a lot about alcohol from TV, movies, music, and their friends. This is the time of year when they are talking about it more because of prom and graduation. Research has shown time and time again that parents are the greatest influence on their kids. So what should you know about underage drinking?
Alcohol is the drug of choice among youth, and about 90 percent of underage drinkers consume alcohol by binging, which is five or more standard-size drinks on one occasion. Drinking too much alcohol too quickly can lead to alcohol poisoning. Blood alcohol concentration can continue to rise while someone is passed out.
Even after a person stops drinking, the alcohol already in the stomach and the intestines continues to enter the bloodstream. So, someone who appears to be sleeping it off could actually be in real danger.
Youth drink to relax and lower their inhibitions in social situations; to reduce stress, tension and worries; to increase courage and feelings of power; to satisfy their curiosity about the feelings that alcohol produces, or feel more grown up; and because alcohol is easy to access.
Some personal characteristics that increase the likelihood that youth will drink include: impulsive or excitement-seeking youth; rebellious youth; and youth with mental health issues or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Family influence plays a very important role. Studies have shown that youth are more likely to drink alcohol when at least one of their parents has a history of alcoholism or alcohol use. Parents need to set clear behavioral expectations and monitor their children’s behavior. Family conflict is associated with increases in adolescent alcohol use.
Rates of death and injury nearly triple between the early teen years and early adult life, and dangerous activities like underage drinking play a role. Other consequences of underage drinking include:
Health: risky sexual behavior; mental health disorders; and “hard” drug use.
Academic: Underage drinkers may miss classes, fall behind in their schoolwork, earn lower grades, drop out, fail classes, or be expelled from school.
Family: The consequences of underage drinking – such as health problems, social difficulties, dropping out of school, or legal consequences – may begin a family crisis.
Research indicates that brain development continues until about age 25. Consumption of alcohol during the adolescent years can affect brain development and may interfere with adolescents’ ability to form new, lasting, and explicit memories of facts and events.
Most young people who start drinking before age 21 do so when they are 13-14 years old. One in four eighth graders drink, and of those who admit to drinking, half have been drunk. Of adults who started drinking before age 15, around 40 percent say they have the signs of alcohol dependence. That rate is four times higher than for adults who didn’t drink until they were age 21.
Society gives youth mixed messages about drinking. Make sure that your children get their information from their best resource, YOU!
For more information, go to www.adamscountysaac.com.