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Underage Drinking: Everything Parents Need to Know

The use and abuse of alcohol among young people under the age of 21 continues to be a significant health concern in the United States.  Alcohol remains the drug of choice for young people and is used by more young people than tobacco or other illicit drugs.  Alcohol is responsible for nearly 4,300 deaths each year in the United States as well as approximately 189,000 emergency room visits.  Even though is it illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 21, it is estimated that 11% of all the alcohol that is consumed is by those in the 12-20 age group.

There are also other statistics regarding underage drinking that are both concerning and troubling.  In a fact sheet published by SAMHSA, the following was made public:

  • While those under the age of 21 drink less often than adults, when young people drink they often binge drink.
  • When asked how easy it would be to get alcohol, the majority of students in the 8th, 10th and 12th grade stated that it would be fairly easy or very easy.
  • Of the nearly 4.3 million people in the United States who reported using alcohol for the first time in the past year, 81.4% where under the age of 21 and approximately 58.3% were under the age of 18.
  • In the past 30 days, 11% of 8th graders reported drinking with 3.6% reporting that they drank to intoxication.
  • In regards to binge drinking behaviors, males typically engage in these types of behaviors in comparison to young women.

underage drinking

For Parents: What to Look For

If you are a parent and you are concerned about your child drinking or fear that your child may be drinking and doing it in excess, it is important to step back and objectively look for warning signs that may indicate underage drinking.  These warning signs can be seen in four different areas:

  • Behavioral
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Physical

Behavioral signs that underage drinking may be or is occurring with your child may include problems at school and rebelling against family rules and norms.  There may also be a lack of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies and your child may have switched friends and may be reluctant for you to meet their new friends.  In regards to the emotional signs, your son or daughter may start exhibiting a matter of fact “nothing matters” type of attitude with increasing frequency or may be exhibiting wild swings of mood, irritability and defensiveness.

If your son or daughter is drinking, there may also be mental changes that can be observed.  For example, your son or daughter may exhibit lapses in concentration or may be experiencing memory loss.  Finally, there can be significant physical signs of underage drinking which may include low energy and bloodshot eyes.  Additionally, there also may be noticeable slurring of speech and impaired coordination.

What Can Be Done To Combat Underage Drinking?

teen drug & alcohol intervention

Parents can make all the difference in regards to addressing and preventing underage drinking in their children.  First and foremost, it is important that parents avoid adopting the denial mindset and instead approaching the subject of underage drinking with their children with an open and more proactive mindset.  Here are four ways in which parents can help prevent underage drinking in their children:

  1. Talk– As a parent, you need to talk regularly with your kids regarding the messages they are seeing in social and mass media regarding alcohol.  Talk about what they see on television and in movies.  Ask about what their friends are doing and the role of peer pressure in decision making.
  2. Being Involved– Touch base with your child every day and be proactive.  Support them in school and other activities and get to know their friends and their parents as well.  Go to teacher conferences and school activities.
  3. Being a Good Role Model-W hat messages are you sending you children in regards to drinking?  It has been stated in studies that the second biggest factor in underage drinking is family history of alcohol abuse.   If your social life involves getting drunk, your kids will pick up on that.
  4. Ask for Help– If you are worried that your child may be using alcohol in risky ways, you don’t need to handle it alone. There are people who can help, like your child’s doctor, or school guidance counselor.

When it comes to dealing with a child with a drug & alcohol problem, contact The Palm Beach Institute to speak to a qualified Addiction Specialist that will help you get your child the treatment they need in a safe, nurturing environment. Call us now at 1-855-470-2050 or visit our Contact Us page for more information.

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