Every April the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness Month
. This year’s theme is “Connecting the Dots: Opportunities for Recovery.” The focus is on all the ways individuals, families, and communities can prevent adolescents from abusing alcohol which remains a serious problem. Today, adolescents continue to use alcohol more than cigarettes, marijuana, or any other drugs.
Risks Associated with Underage Drinking
Underage drinking puts teenagers and young adults in very dangerous situations. Studies show that while young people drink less frequently than adults, they are more likely to binge drink. According to the CDC, excessive drinking contributes to the death of over 4,300 people under age 21 in the US every year and many more sustain serious injuries.
Below are just a few of the risks associated with underage drinking:
● Becoming victims of violent crimes
● Alcohol-related traffic crashes
● Sexual assault
● Risky sexual behavior
● Abusing other drugs
Why Young People Drink
Like adults, young people turn to alcohol for various reasons. Some drink to fit in with their peers or be comfortable in social situations. Others use alcohol as a way to cope with depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, family problems, or the stress of everyday life. Regardless of the reason, alcohol should not be the solution. In addition to the numerous safety risks associated with underage drinking, people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol addiction than those who wait until age 21.
What Can Parents Do?
Did you know that research shows parents are the number one reason kids decide not to drink? According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), kids who have conversations with their parents and learn about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use alcohol and drugs than those who don’t. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a wealth of resources
to help parents start those conversations which can begin as early as age 9. There’s even an app
Additionally, parents can help tremendously by being good role models for their children. This means drinking responsibly and not promoting alcohol use in your home. Do not allow any underage drinking in your house. Just because kids are at home doesn’t mean it’s safe to drink; allowing this behavior sends the message that you approve. Not to mention, serving minors, even at home, is illegal and you could be held responsible for any negative consequences that occur.
Above all, if you are concerned your child may have a problem with alcohol or any other drugs get him or her to a professional for an evaluation. You don’t have to take on this problem alone. The earlier people get treatment the better they do for the rest of their lives.
Learn more about the Silver Hill Hospital treatment programs for teens.
John Douglas, M.D.
Clinical Director, Outpatient Addiction Program