Underage Drinking

April 1st, 2011

National Alcohol Awareness Month, held every April, is an opportunity to raise awareness of alcohol abuse and encourage people to make healthy, safe choices. In honor of Alcohol Awareness Month, this Issues and Answers column is devoted to the prevention of underage drinking.

Despite the fact that drinking is illegal for anyone under the age of 21, the reality is that many adolescents drink. Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth and accounts for approximately 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States.

Teens indicate that they drink in order to have a good time, to experiment, and to relax or relieve tension. Peer pressure can encourage drinking. Many report that they get alcohol for free from family, a guardian or the home. But there are many risks associated with underage drinking.

Consequences of Underage Drinking

  • Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience:
  • School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades
  • Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities
  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk
  • Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses
  • Unwanted, unplanned and unprotected sexual activity
  • Disruption of normal growth and sexual development
  • Physical and sexual assault
  • Higher risk for suicide and homicide
  • Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning
  • Memory problems
  • Abuse of other drugs
  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects
  • Death from alcohol poisoning

If these consequences weren’t enough to encourage you to start a dialog with your kids about alcohol, consider this alarming statistic: Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse some time in their lives than those who wait until age 21 to begin drinking.

It is proven that youth who have parents who support, watch over and talk with them openly and honestly about the consequences of underage drinking are less likely to drink than their peers. If you are concerned about your child, call the David Lawrence Center’s Juvenile Assessment Services at 263-4013 for a free assessment.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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