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Preventing Underage Drinking and Alcohol Misuse-National Prevention Week

This week, May 10th to May 16th, is National Prevention Week, sponsored by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Each day in National Prevention Week focuses on a specific topic about substance abuse and mental health. Today, May 12th, focuses on preventing underage drinking and alcohol misuse. If you would like to learn more about National Prevention Week, visit SAMHSA’s website. Archstone Behavioral Health, a drug and alcohol rehab facility, would like to help raise awareness to prevent underage drinking. Below we will discuss some facts, causes, and dangers of teenage alcohol abuse.

Facts About Underage Drinking

Alcohol is the most commonly used substance by teenagers in the United States, despite the legal drinking age of 21 years. When teens drink, they are more likely to binge drink than adults, putting themselves at more risk.  Alcohol.org reported, “Individuals ages 12-20 account for 11% of all the alcohol consumed in the States, and more than 90% of that is consumed by binge drinking.” Binge drinking is defined as drinking 4-5 or more drinks within a 2-hour period for adult men and women. Less drinks are required for teens to reach the same blood alcohol levels depending on age and weight.

Below are some other facts about teen drinking from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):

  • 8% of teens have had at least one drink by the age of 15.
  • 58% of teens have had at least one drink by the age of 18.
  • 1 million people ages 12-20 reported that they have consumed alcohol in the past month, in a 2018 survey
  • 3 million reported binge drinking at least once in the past month
  • 861,000 reported binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month
  • The chart below shows that more teenagers use alcohol than cigarettes or marijuana

Causes of Teenage Drinking

As with any type of substance abuse, causes and triggers can vary for each person. Some common reasons that teens drink are listed below, however, there may be other factors that contribute to teen alcohol abuse.

  • Rebellion
    • Teenagers often rebel in some form against authority figures in their lives. Drinking illegally can be a form of rebellion, as it is something they are told not to do, and it is illegal.
  • Asserting independence
    • Many teens constantly strive to show that they are independent and think they are old enough to take care of themselves. Some may consider drinking as a form of asserting their independence, as it is something someone their age is not supposed to do. It may be their way of controlling something in their lives.
  • Lack of knowledge
    • Most do not know the risks of drinking at such a young age. Talk to your child about the risks and create an open dialogue where they can ask questions. Some may drink out of curiosity without realizing how damaging it can be to them and their development.
  • Peer Pressure
    • The most commonly discussed reason for teen drinking is peer pressure. They want to fit in with their friends and partake in the same activities and experiences.
  • Stress
    • A very concerning reason for teen alcohol abuse is stress in their lives. Stress may come from school, friends, parents, sports, or an underlying condition. They may be afraid to talk about the pressure they are feeling and instead try to self-medicate.
  • Ease of Access
    • NIAAA reported that in 2018, “among the 12-14 year olds who reported that they drank in the past month, 96.4% reported that they got it for free the last time they drank.” Easy access to alcohol will make them more likely to try it.

Dangers of Underage Drinking

  • Impaired Judgement
    • Judgements and decision making will be compromised and can lead to many of the other items on this list. Impaired judgement can result in risky behaviors that may have not occurred without teen drinking.
  • Drinking and Driving
  • Physical or Sexual assault
    • Impairment makes it more likely to carry out or be the victim of physical or sexual assault.
  • Increasing chances of future alcohol related problems
    • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that teens drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are 4 times more likely to become dependent on alcohol at some point in their lives.
  • Use of other substances
    • Once decision making is impaired, teens are more likely to engage in use of other substances
  • Getting Arrested
    • Consuming alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal and can lead to arrest.
  • Higher risk for suicide
  • Brain development
    • Brain development continues into the 20s and teenage alcohol abuse can alter proper brain development. Alcohol dependence can result in cognitive or learning problems and disabilities.
  • Memory problems
    • Issues with the development of the brain can also lead to issues with memory.
  • Death
    • An estimate from the CDC shows that each year, from 2006-2010, 4,358 deaths of people under the age of 21 were alcohol related. Including:
      • 1,580 deaths from car crashes
      • 1,269 from homicides
      • 245 from falls, burns, drowning, and alcohol poisoning
      • 492 from suicides

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, come get help at Archstone Behavioral Health, located in Lantana, Florida. We provide MAT, detox, residential, PHP, and IOP to those struggling with drug or alcohol abuse and co-occurring disorders paired with addiction. Call us at (561) 945-8078 or fill out a form on our website to get help now!

Resources:
https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm
https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/underage-drinking
https://www.alcohol.org/teens/
https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/resources/underage-drinking/