“What’s the big deal? It’s only a sip.” So many adults justify giving teens alcohol by making this statement or believing that teens are safe while under their supervision. The big deal is that in the United States, the legal age of alcohol consumption is 21 years old and more than 3,500 youth lose their lives each year to excessive drinking.
Unfortunately for some teens, drinking occasionally with adults creates an open door to continue illegal alcohol consumption with or without an adult. Underage drinking can cause serious consequences. We need to do what we can to protect our youth from potential death or serious injury that alcohol can cause. As we know, teens already have a difficult time making healthy choices for themselves and consuming alcohol impairs their judgment even more.
According to the CDC, youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience:
- School problems, such as higher rates of absences or lower grades
- Social problems, such as fighting or 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 or sexual development
- Physical and sexual violence
- Increased risk of suicide and homicide
- Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls or drowning
- Memory problems
- Misuse of other substances
- Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects
- Alcohol poisoning
Alcohol abuse in teens is a problem we can’t ignore! As influencers to our youth, we can take steps to prevent teens from drinking or continuing to drink. This effort can start in our homes by not having alcohol available in the house or locking it away so teens can’t access it. This simple step can make it much harder for teens to get their hands on alcohol, since they aren’t able to legally purchase it in stores.
Most importantly, we have to be the best role model to our youth. According to the CDC, teens are more likely to drink or binge alcohol if their parents are drinkers. If we display alcohol use or abuse regularly to our teens, it will make it a normal behavior. We can make a point to show our teens that we can have fun, socialize or cope without the use of alcohol. We can lead by example and show a healthy lifestyle.
One of the main reasons why teens choose to drink alcohol is because of stress. As adults, we can help teens by giving them healthy coping skills to use when they are in a stressful state so that they do not reach for alcohol to cope. Healthy coping skills include meditating, listening to music, exercising and reading.
As you can see, underage drinking is a big deal! If you are looking for credible sources for information on teens and alcohol use, please visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.