The legal age for drinking across the United States is 21 years of age. This does not stop those under the age of 21 from drinking. In fact it is a wide spread problem. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services alcohol is the drug of choice for those adolescents under 21. The Department of Health also notes that every year we lose about 5,000 kids under 21 to drinking which takes in 1,900 from vehicle accidents, 1,600 from homicide, 300 from suicide and the remainder from falls, injuries and other alcohol related incidences. Underage drinking is a huge problem.
Despite the fact that most teens have lost someone they know or are close to because of an alcohol related incident, this does not cause them to stop. It is an increasing problem among teens. Teens are starting to drink earlier and earlier and the number of teens who drink rises as they get older. The Department of Health states that 29% of 12th graders had engaged in some heavy drinking at some point. This is a very alarming number.
So why are the teens turning to alcohol? Because of the changes that are going on in a teens body and mind it can lead to drinking all on it’s own and this can even mean risky drinking where they take high risks with the amount they drink or the activities they engage in while under the influence.
If parents or peers have made drinking seem like a pleasurable event this may lead the teen to go into it thinking that it is a mood enhancer or something enjoyable. How a child views alcohol intake is formed very early in life so it is very necessary for parents to set guidelines and examples starting when children are at a very young age.
Because of our physiological differences, teens may be able to withstand a higher amount of alcohol without negative effects (like drowsiness, dizziness, etc.) than adults in general. This can lead to problems with binge drinking and alcohol poisoning.
There is always heredity that comes into play here. If the child comes from a background of people with addictive behaviors, the teen may have the same addictive behaviors and this is why it is so scary if they start drinking so young and to such excess. This leads to a life long problem of drinking and trying to overcome addiction. That is if their lives are not taken early because of accidents or other factors.
Parents can help with underage drinking. They can be a part of the solution. There is no need for a parent to feel like things are hopeless, even if you know that your teen has already been drinking in the past. There is help. You can start with parent/teen contracts and if those are not enough there are rehabilitation centers that work with youth. There are even schools that are meant for teens with these problems. Get the help your family needs today. Don’t wait to find solutions for yourself and your teen.