Alcohol has wide-ranging effects in the body. There are purported benefits, as well as pitfalls, to consuming alcohol. Once it enters your system, it triggers immediate physiological changes in the brain, heart, and liver, among other organs. Over time, these changes can lead to long-term health complications if you’re drinking too much.
There’s а lot you may not know about this popular substance that’s found in some of your favorite cocktails, liquors, beers, and wines. The following are some interesting facts about teenage alcohol abuse, along with some myths about this often celebratory substance consumed in many cultures around the world.
Surprising Facts About Teens and Alcohol
As а parent, it’s not easy to hear scary statistics about teens and drinking. Teenagers abuse alcohol more than any other substance, and many pay а price for their drinking. From accidents to missed school and poor grades to fatalities, drinking and teens is а disturbing topic. However, as а parent you have а responsibility to be aware so that you can protect your children. Knowing and understanding teenage drinking statistics and making sure your teen understands the risks of alcohol consumption will prep your teenager to make smarter and better choices.
Fact 1: Teens get into cars with drunk drivers.
Never make the mistake of thinking that your teen would never drink. Stats about substance abuse through the national survey on drug use and health indicate that most people have experimented with alcohol while under the legal drinking age. The percent of teens in high school that have consumed alcohol are as follows; nearly 75% of seniors, of which 23% have engaged in the dangerous habit of binge drinking.
We like to think our kids will make smart decisions and we know that they understand the dangers of drunk driving, yet they still put themselves at risk. A quarter of all high school students have admitted to getting into а car with а drunk driver, which eight percent admit to driving а car while under the influence.
Fact 2: Teens start drinking before they’re teens.
In the United States, the average age at which boys start drinking is 11. It seems shocking, but it’s true. Girls tend to hold off а bit longer, but still, on average, first experiment with alcohol at age 13. This is especially upsetting to hear when you find out that anyone who starts drinking before the age of 15 is at а significantly increased risk for having alcohol problems later in life.
Fact 3: Teens who drink are at risk for self-harm.
Teen suicide is one of the most upsetting of all teen-related topics for parents to hear about. Teens who drink regularly are up to three times more likely to commit self-harm, which include not only suicide, but also cutting – a form of self-injury where a person makes small cuts on his/her body, usually the arms and legs.
Fact 4: Alcohol abuse is the No. 1 cause of death.
An important fact that you may not want to hear, but should know is, of the top three causes of death in people between the ages of 15 and 24, alcohol is the main factor in each of them. Car crashes, homicides and suicides are the leading causes of death for this age group, and alcohol is the leading contributing factor.
Fact 5: Misperception
Young people generally have a misleading perception that most people their age are drinking alcohol, which is false. They also believe that those who drink are drinking more heavily than they are. It is sited that one-half of all 15-year-old teens have consumed alcohol; this also means that one-half of all 15-year-olds have not consumed alcohol.
Fact 6: Escape
Some teens drink to escape their problems which include: problems with peers, problems wish parents, and/or problems with school.
Fact 7: Risk-taking
Some drink because they like to take risks. Many teens drink because they like to feel the rush that come from doing something they are not supposed to be doing.
Fact 8: Curiosity
Some drink out of curiosity. They want to know what it feels like to drink, so they drink to gain firsthand knowledge.
Fact 9: Feeling grown-up
Some think drinking will help them feel grown-up. Many adults (including the teen’s parents) drink, so they are just copying the behavior of grown-ups.
Fact 10: Peer pressure
Some drink because they see their friends drinking and feel they have to too in order to “fit in.” There is a misconception that “all the cool kids drink.”
Substance Abuse Myths Exposed
Teenage drug abuse is а serious issue. However, some people, including parents, may not realize the severity because of commonly accepted myths. For parents, it is important to get accurate drug abuse information.
Myth: Using prescription drugs is less harmful than street drugs.
Fact: Many prescription medications intended to alleviate pain, depression, or anxiety are just as dangerous and addictive as illegal drugs. Because of this assumption that prescription drugs are safer, many children are more willing to start experimenting with these medications. And more often than not, teenage prescription drug abuse is accompanied by alcohol consumption.
Prescription drugs are only safe when taken as directed by а doctor. The wrong dosage and/or potential interactions with other drugs, one’s diet, or physiological makeup may have damaging or even deadly effects.
Myth: Using alcohol or marijuana as а teenager is а normal part of growing up.
Fact: Less than half of American teenagers drink alcohol or smoke marijuana. Exposing а developing child to such substances is illegal for good reason. Besides the lasting damage it can cause to the brain, using substances can also harm teenagers’ social development.
In hindsight, people who experimented with substances as teenagers report they were “looking for something.” Trying to have а good time, simplifying social interactions, or solving problems with drugs or alcohol often means they are learning to go to those substances for help. This maladaptive learning process is not easily unlearned.
Myth: Drug testing will only further alienate my child.
Fact: If а child is demonstrating signs and symptoms such as isolation, sleeping during abnormal times, becoming increasingly argumentative and confrontational, or easily agitated, then something serious will be wrong. Drug testing is а starting point for discovering what’s wrong and finding а solution. Mending а tumultuous relationship with your child begins with understanding the problem.
Myth: Drug abuse only really happens in impoverished or low-income areas.
Fact: Studies have found drug addiction and alcoholism occurs across socio-economic levels and ethnicities. Drug abuse is prevalent in both private and public schools throughout the country. Although rates of substance abuse vary somewhat based on gender, age, and socio-economic status, about one in 10 people who abuse drugs become addicted, which is why some mental healthcare professionals refer to drug use as Russian Roulette.
Myth: Drug addiction is а question of moral fiber or character.
Fact: Most addicts start as occasional drug users. While some may view drug use as an immoral choice, drug addiction is а “disease of the brain,” says Dr. Alan Leshner, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. At а certain point, the choice to use becomes а compulsion. Changes in brain chemistry through drug abuse result in uncontrollable drug addiction.
Myth: An addict or alcoholic has to really want to be sober for drug treatment to be effective.
Fact: A majority of youth sent to treatment centers are not there through choice. When drugs or alcohol consume а person, the last thing they “want” is rehabilitation. Whether for legal reasons or family reasons, many people seeking substance abuse treatment did not make the choice alone. In fact, those who have been pressured into treatment through а process of confrontation, coercion, or ultimatum appear to be better. Studies demonstrate that the reason someone seeks treatment has little influence on how well they will do.
Myth: After а treatment program, an addict shouldn’t need any more treatment.
Fact: Unfortunately, drug addiction is generally а lifelong struggle. Like many diseases, relapse and remission cycles are possible. Although some people can quit immediately, or after one drug treatment program, most require long-term plans with strong support and resources, even repeated treatment programs.
Consequences of Underage Drinking
Teen drinking poses а wide variety of risks, including:
- Impaired judgment – Teens who drink make poor decisions, such as drinking and driving, using violence, and sexual activity.
- Increased risk of assault – Youth who drink are more likely are victims or perpetrators of physical or sexual assault.
- Impact on brain development – The human brain continues to develop up to about the age of 25. Underage drinking can hurt the developing brain, creating problems in how it works.
- Injury – In 2008, more than 190,000 youth went to hospital emergency rooms for alcohol-related injuries; an average of 520 ER visits per day.
- Death – Between 4,000 and 5,000 underage drinkers die each year from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning and accidents (e.g., falls, drownings, etc.).
Signs of Teenage Drinking:
- Sharp drop in grades
- Sudden increase in behavioral problems
- Increased secretiveness
- New group of friends
- Less interest in appearance or family activities
- Memory and/or concentration problems
Teenage drug and alcohol abuse statistics are disturbing for parents, but are necessary to understand. Many people are far too relaxed and possess an attitude too casual in regards to teenage drinking. And many parents assume that the consequences of their teen drinking are more likely to be minimal rather than extremely serious. The truth is that any amount of underage drinking can have devastating consequences, from suicide to car accidents to addiction problems later on down the road. If you have а teen, sit them down today and have а serious talk about alcohol.