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The Teenage Drinking Epidemic

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The teenage years are often filled with risky behaviors and feelings of invincibility. These two characteristics tend to create a sense of unease in parents of adolescents. Though these risky behaviors take many different forms, one of the most common is binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse defines binge drinking as the consumption of five or more drinks on one occasion. The teenage drinking epidemic is on the rise, with more teens checking into teen treatment every year.

Teenage Alcoholism

Surveys have shown that one in every six American teenagers participates in binge drinking. Teens dominate the binge drinking scene, and it is most common between the ages of 12 and 20. Studies have shown that more than half of all U.S. teens have their first alcoholic drinks before the age of 15.  And, more than 70% have at least one drink before the age of 18.

The risks and consequences associated with binge drinking as a teenager are severe. As many as 5,000 deaths of Americans under 21 each year are due to alcohol-related car crashes. Also, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other alcohol-related injuries are common. But, the consequences don’t end there.

The brain continues developing well into a person’s 20s and this is why excessive amounts of alcohol can do permanent damage to its growth; even many health and developmental problems are the result of excessive underage drinking.

Many parents know that teenage alcoholism and binge drinking is dangerous, yet they know how enticing it is for young people to want to drink and party, which can lead to a serious problem. If your teen displays symptoms like slurred speech, changes in social groups, academic difficulty, memory problems, or concentration problems, he or she might have a problem with alcohol. Of course, a teen with an alcohol abuse problem needs the help and support of family, although professional rehabilitation is also important to help a loved one leave harmful habits behind.

Underage Drinking Hurts Communities

For example, addressing a high school gathering in New Jersey, Mercer County state’s attorney Meeghan Lee described how underage drinking is now in a societal epidemic stage. According to defense attorney Mark Shepard, the problem is that underage drinking is an epidemic, “that all too often has not been fully grasped…. Although the potential catastrophic effect is horrific, my kids and their friends are going to do it anyway.”

Once again, the root of the problem is teen brain development. Hence, teens lack impulse control and experiential strength. They cannot resist peer pressure. Indeed, most teens desperately want to be accepted by their peers.  Thus, they drink alcohol to be cool. Moreover, they take risks that go against their better judgment.

Hence, drinking opens the door to bad behavior. According to a joint study by New York University and HSE researchers, adolescents that drink lie more to their parents. Drinking actually affects a teen’s ability to be honest. By introducing alcohol, the teen loses inhibitions and embraces risky behaviors.

Indeed, the teen drinking epidemic is scary. However, it is by no means insurmountable. Know the risks, know the signs, and know where to find help if a problem should arise.

Infographic: Stats on Teen Drinking Epidemic

Photo courtesy of unsplash.