Underage Drinking: It’s Actually More Dangerous Than You Would Think
Underage drinking is a major public health problem. It has consequences not just for teens, but also for family members. Teenage years are the years to challenge authority, find out who you are, and take risks; but no one wants to die just as their life is beginning. Many teens are not aware of how truly harmful alcohol can be to underage drinkers.
Alcohol is classified as a drug, and like many drugs, can become addicting. Abusing alcohol during early and mid adolescence can cause teens to have an increased risk for drug use later in life. Also alcohol abuse can lead to poor judgment resulting in accidents, violence, or suicide. Alcohol can also contribute to trouble with memory and other mental health problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 75,000 deaths per year result from excessive alcohol consumption, and 50% of accidental traumas and 30-40% of emergency room visits are alcohol related. In the United States alcohol is used by more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs. Studies have found that 11% of the alcohol that is consumed in the United States is done so by underage drinkers between 12 and 20 years old.
Risk Factors for Teen Alcohol Abuse:
A teenager is more likely to start drinking if other teenagers in their environment have started to drink already as well as if he or she has frequent contact with adult problem drinkers. The amount of time that a teen spends home alone with no supervision increases their chance of alcohol abuse. Family history, depression, and low self esteem are also big contributors to a teen’s likelihood to drink. One last important risk factor that may be very hard to control is the media and advertising because alcohol is often associated with having “good times”.
Parents, look for signs of your teen abusing alcohol:
Some physical signs of drinking are fatigue, red and glazed eyes, and a lasting cough. Emotionally, you may notice personality change, mood changes, irritability, and depression. The teen may start family arguments, break rules, and withdraw from the family. When it comes to school, absences, truancy, poor grades, and a negative attitude could signal an alcohol problem. Lastly, changes can be seen in your teens’ group of friends and their choice of dress or style. One of the most obvious signs that your teen is drinking is problems with the law.
What can you do to help?
Talk to your teen as a person. Most teens feel that if they are treated with respect it becomes easier to confide in others. School counselors can also provide help along with programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). You can look for drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs in your area. Community based efforts help to minimize the access to alcohol for teens and to maximize the monitoring of safe activities.
If you or someone you know may have a drinking problem some important numbers to keep in mind for those living in the New Britain area are:
• Alcoholics Anonymous (860)-223-9929
• Lifeline of Wheeler Clinic (860) 223-8885
• The Hospital of Central Connecticut (860) 224-5011