A large mug of beer, an excess wine glass, a couple of tequila shots and a number of cocktail chalices contain more alcohol than a standard drink. Unfortunately, teens today go beyond the standard normal to get a high. The short and long-term consequences of underage alcohol consumption are greater in range and magnitude and considerably affects a teenager’s life.
Underage drinking is proving to be a worldwide threat, and is a serious public health problem in the United States. The American teens indulge in alcohol the most, without the slightest concern about the rising health and safety issues. In fact, the consequences of underage drinking can affect anyone, regardless of the drinking status. It has become a nationwide concern rather than a family problem within closed doors.
According to a National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism factsheet, in 2014, 35 percent of U.S. teens have had at least one drink by age 15; around 65 percent of teens have had at least one drink by age 18. Moreover, in 2014, 8.7 million young people ages 12–20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year. The drinking problem cost the U.S. $24 billion in 2010. Moreover, 12 to 20-year-olds drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. Youths who have started drinking before the age of 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life.
Risks of underage drinking
According to National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the initial decision to indulge in alcohol and other substances is invariably voluntary. But when the person gets addicted, it is impossible to control the inclination impulses and his ability to self-control is severely hampered.
Brain imaging studies on drug-addicted teens and older individuals have shown that there were physical changes in their brains due to excessive alcohol use. Brain impulses which are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and behavior control get severely affected.
Teens are extremely vulnerable to alcohol use because they encounter several dramatic physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes. In fact, physical developmental changes like puberty have been found to trigger alcohol abuse. The rising feeling of being independent, ready-to-take-risks attitude and peer pressures can increase their urge to try alcohol. Moreover, coping with stress, such as a transition from middle school to high school, dealing with the effects of a parental divorce, etc. pull them towards alcohol.
Underage drinking can severely affect the mental and physical condition of a teen. Whatever causes a teen to drink, the consequences might prove to be bad and sometimes fatal too. Some of the risks involved are:
- Alcohol-related fatalities: The Trust for America’s Health’s Reducing Teen Substance Misuse: What Really Works, published in 2015, gives some heart-wrenching facts on teen alcohol abuse. It reported that nearly one in four fatal car accidents among 15- to 20-year-olds was due to drunken driving. Out of them, almost three quarters were also not wearing a seat belt. Teen drownings, suicides and murders have also been linked with alcohol use.
- Sexual activity: Underage drinking also pave the way for engaging in unprotected, unwanted and unintended sexual activity with one or multiple partners, increasing the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and unplanned pregnancies.
- School problem:Teens who drink have poor academic and behavior conduct at school. They tend to get low grades, indulge in unnecessary brawls and violent behavior with peers.
- Violent crime: Teens who drink are more likely to be hurt in a violent crime, such as rape, assault or robbery.
Way to recovery
A prevention-oriented approach can be undertaken among teens to decrease initiation, regular consumption of alcohol or developing an addiction towards it. Creating awareness about cons of alcoholism and providing an environment of reducing risk factors through parents, schools and voluntary agencies can lower the chances of alcohol abuse.
If your child is addicted to alcohol, please seek professional medical help. We, at Sovereign Addiction Services, provide individualized and effective treatment procedures to prevent alcohol addiction and its relapse. Our cutting edge, cognition based techniques can help your teen get better and lead normal life free from the urge to drink again. Please chat online or call our 24/7 helpline at 855-683-9756 for more information.