The transitional period between adolescence and adulthood comes with a lot of physical and emotional changes along with a newfound freedom. These elements combined with peer pressure could be why underage drinking is one of the leading issues in this country today. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “each year, approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking; this includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 as a result of homicides, 300 from suicide, as well as hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings.” This becomes increasingly unsettling given the fact that those who begin drinking as early as age 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent in their lifetime.
There are many reasons why teenagers feel compelled to drink underage. Understanding why they chose to go down this path will help prevent or decrease the number of underage drinkers in the future. Risk-Taking— Certain hormonal changes cause teenagers to seek thrills. This can manifest itself in the form of drinking and experimenting as this age group becomes more prone to act on their impulses. Expectancies—A child and adolescent’s viewpoint on drinking mostly shape when and how much they drink. Their expectations of how alcohol will effect them being met or not largely determines their overall outlook on drinking as well as how often or not they participate in drinking.
While the brain and body are still evolving, adding alcohol to the mix can cause harmful risks. Alcohol is not good for the developing brain as it causes moodiness and memory loss. It also negatively effects the liver, causing damage as well as putting the users at risk for obesity. Lastly, consumption of alcohol during puberty can cause difficulty with the maturation of the reproduction system.
The prevention of underage drinking is up to authority figures and guardians. The adolescents either need a proper explanation of why underage drinking is a poor choice or a strict enforcement of the rules and regulations surrounding alcohol consumption. The price of alcohol could be raised, the drinking age could be increased, zero-tolerance laws could be implemented as well as school and family based prevention programs. This combination of providing the youth with knowledge as well as strict laws to be accountable for would dramatically decrease the amount of adolescent drinking in this country.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
Prevention is the safest way to decrease the amount of adolescent drinking. However, treatment is available in the way of professional help such as therapy or a psychiatrist. Also, staying busy or involved in sports can help kids stick to the right group of people as well as provide a focus and drive for them. With school taking up a large portion of teens’ time, filling their free time with productive and healthy activities are a good way to prevent them from going down the wrong path or getting mixed in with the wrong crowd. Other ways that parents can help treat underage drinking is by talking about the dangers of drinking, setting an example by drinking responsibly if they choose to drink, serving as positive role models in general, and supervising parties. Having an open relationship with your kid about drinking will get you a lot further than neglecting to speak about the dangers of alcohol. Providing teens with the tools to avoid peer pressure is an invaluable way to treat adolescent drinking as well.