Underage Drinking: The Heartbreaking Truth
Written by Family First Adolescent Services,
in Section Latest Articles
Growing Up Is Hard To Do
Most adults (if we’re being honest) have “war stories” about consuming alcohol when we were underage. Some are good. Some are bad. Despite having more luck than brains, many of us were able to reach the age of reason relatively unscathed.
Others were not so lucky.
Somewhere along the line, we grew up. Accumulated responsibilities. Weathered hardships. Got wise. Had children of our own. Then realized that they inherited our shortcomings.
Parents of teenagers can confirm: there’s a big difference between being a carefree teenager and observing a careless teenager. Teenagers often exhibit questionable behavior. Some of these behaviors might remind us a little too much of ourselves in our glory days.
Through the lens of adulthood, it’s clear that “just having fun” is not as innocent as it once seemed. Life is full of consequences. We never know how our decisions today will play out tomorrow.
The Problems of Underage Drinking
The problems of underage drinking expand far beyond the family. They are societal problems. When we hear horror stories about underage drinking, it’s easy to think of it as an abstract and distant problem. In truth, there are many ways that underage drinking negatively impacts everyone.
Aggressive behavior. Personal injury. Property damage. Violence. Death.
These are the more apparent consequences of underage drinking. It doesn’t even touch on the cultural, psychological, developmental, or educational repercussions.
Underage drinking is far more widespread than the public realizes. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Children ages 12 through 20 consume 11% of the alcohol consumed in the United States.
The findings go on to state that, while youths consume alcohol less frequently than adults, they consume a higher quantity when they do drink.
9 Heartbreaking Facts About Underage Drinking
Fact #1: Problems in School
Underage drinking has been linked to underperformance in school. While on the surface this may not seem heartbreaking, it is when you consider all of the opportunities your child could miss out on in life by setting the early precedent of underperformance. Failure can be a great teacher if you learn from it.
Fact #2: Lack of Participation
Showing up is a big part of being successful in multiple facets of life. It is a necessary component in developing and maintaining relationships, securing gainful employment, or finding any sort of fulfillment in life. It takes an effort to make things happen. Participation in a variety of activities is healthy for teens.
Fact #3: Legal Problems
Statistically speaking, legal problems tend to lead to more legal problems. Not only do problems of this sort act as unshakable shadows throughout life - they are also expensive. Additionally limiting: depending on the type of legal problem, it may limit a teen’s opportunities as they move forward through life.
Fact #4: Unplanned Pregnancy
Adolescents who consume alcohol are more prone to unplanned pregnancy. This is due to the increased lack of judgment and poor decision making that alcohol is so famous for. Unplanned pregnancies cause a fracture in both families involved. Additionally, it presents health, financial, and social risks.
Fact #5: Issues with Physical Development
Research indicates that an adolescent’s brain continues to develop into their 20’s. Alcohol can stifle this development - affecting the brain’s function and structure. Not only can this cause cognitive issues, it can also result in an increased dependence on alcohol.
Fact #6: Higher Risk of Suicide
Alcohol is a depressant. It slows brain function and introduces the element of confusion and poor judgment into what is already a difficult time in life. Adolescence is no picnic. The body and mind go through changes that are difficult enough to handle without adding alcohol to the equation. Research has linked underage drinking to a higher risk of suicide.
Fact #7: Physical & Sexual Assault
Adolescents who drink alcohol are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault while drinking than people their age that do not drink.
Fact #8: Alcohol-Related Auto Accidents
Drunk driving is a well-known side-effect to alcohol consumption. Teens, having only been driving a short while, are inexperienced drivers. Teens who drink alcohol run the heightened risk of being injured or killed in an auto accident.
Fact #9: Increase of Alcoholism or Drug Abuse
Teens that begin drinking at age 15 are 4x more likely to become alcoholics. In addition, they become more susceptible to drug abuse.
How to Prevent Underage Drinking?
This begs the question: how can I keep my teen from drinking?
Properly answering this question poses a difficult challenge: people have a will of their own. Teenagers are no exception. Everyone does what they do for different reasons - some conscious, some not. We can’t control adolescents (or anyone else) by forcing our will upon them.
Oftentimes, this approach has the opposite effect because it shows a total lack of understanding.
Instead of clumsily driving your point home like a hammer drives a nail, we need to teach teens to respect themselves by showing them they have value. Additionally, we need to make them aware of the long-term consequences of their actions. Not in a fearful way - something far less manipulative than that.
Teaching teens how to be honest with themselves will serve as an invaluable asset throughout life.
The first step in understanding underage drinking is to isolate the factors that lead teenagers to abuse alcohol in the first place.
The following must be carefully considered:
- Rate of physical/emotional development
- Level of risk
- Social factors
- Environmental factors
Once you are aware of which factor is the primary engine behind your teen's alcohol abuse, you can start to figure out how to resolve it. This strategy can include a combination of education, extracurricular activities, social involvement, open and honest communication, therapy, or family support.
Treating Underage Drinking
In the event that your child’s drinking problem has gotten out of hand, we urge you to seek the help of trained professionals - such as an addiction treatment center. Particularly one that employs qualified mental health professionals that focus on the treating adolescent substance use. Family First Adolescent Services is here to help.
We specialize in treating teenage boys who suffer from alcohol addiction, drug addiction, mood disorders, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Our individualized treatment plans provide solutions for the whole family. By offering a variety of therapy options (group therapy, individual therapy, experiential therapy), we are able to get to the heart of why your child is hurting themselves and then formulate a plan to ensure that it stops.