Teenage Drinking: 12 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know
teenage years are an amazing experience for teens and their parents. Every
parent wants their child to grow into a confident adult. But it also can be scary
for families when teens are exposed to difficult choices like underage
drinking. A recent survey found that 30 percent of high school students have consumed
alcohol over the past month.
after study shows that teens are drinking, whether their parents want to admit
it or not. Experts are learning new information every day about the physical
and mental effects of underage drinking and why teens should choose to stay
Teen Drinking and Adult Alcohol Dependence
Teens live in the moment and often make decisions on a whim.
However, kids who start drinking before their 15th birthdays are four times
more likely to become alcoholics than people who choose to wait until
age 21 to experience alcohol.
Younger Teens Get Drunker, Faster
On average, it takes an adult’s body about one hour to process the
alcohol found in one standard drink. During that time, the alcohol is slowly
being metabolized by the body. Being legally drunk means having a blood alcohol
concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. Following generally accepted
guidelines, the average woman reaches the legal limit after consuming about two
drinks in one hour. Men are legally drunk after about three drinks in an hour.
However, in younger teens, the body metabolizes alcohol more slowly.
A recent study found that young teens who consumed three drinks over two hours
reached the legal BAC limit or higher. Those who had five drinks within two
hours had BAC’s two
to three times the legal adult limit.
Teens are Not Trained Bartenders
A shot, or one serving of alcohol, is 1.5 ounces of 80-proof
distilled spirits. However, give a bottle of booze and a plastic cup to a teen
and ask them to make a mixed drink. The result will be one strong drink!
Researchers tried this with college students and found that most poured in six to
eight servings of alcohol or more!
So, while a teen thinks they’re having “just one” drink, they
could be consuming a dangerous amount of alcohol in a very short amount of
Teens are Binge Drinkers
Adults like to savor a glass of wine or enjoy the newest craft
beer selection from a local brewery. Many teens have something completely
different in mind when they drink. Shots, drinking games, beer bongs; when
teens drink, they’re more likely to be binge drinking.
Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks in one
two-hour sitting for a woman and five or more drinks for men during the same
time period. Because most teens tend to drink a lot of alcohol in a short
amount of time, more than 90 percent of that alcohol is consumed during periods of binge
binge drinking is throwing back 10 to 15 drinks or more in one sitting. This
kind of alcohol consumption can lead to alcohol poisoning, hospitalization,
coma and possibly death. Drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short period
of time can lead to:
Irregularities in heart rate
Dangerous fluctuations in body temperature
Loss of consciousness
Someone who has consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol may have
some or all these symptoms and needs immediate emergency medical attention.
Teenage Brains React Differently to Alcohol Than Adult Brains
bodies may seem grown up on the outside, but their brains are not. Human brains
are not fully developed until around age 25. So, when a
teen drinks, the alcohol has a greater effect on their developing brain, which
can be permanent. Once a teen sobers up, alcohol continues to slow down brain
activity for up to two weeks; far longer than in an adult brain.
effects of alcohol on the teenage brain:
the brain’s ability to make and store memories
areas of the brain that control judgment, which can lead to dumb decisions and
risky sexual behavior
a teen’s risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems
Serious Drinking Can Lead to Serious Physical Health Problems
The long-lasting effects of heavy drinking during the teenage
years can affect the entire body and cause serious health problems later in
life. One study found a
higher risk for obesity, heart disease, stroke, and memory problems in adults
who engaged in regular binge drinking as teens.
Long-term physical effects of alcohol abuse:
muscle — affects the ability to pump enough blood to organs
Weaker bones — more likely to
suffer fractures, longer healing time
digestive system — can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain
Destroys liver —
causes inflammation, scarring, and disease
of deaths caused by injuries from falls, drownings, and burns
Social Media Elevates Peer Pressure
Peer pressure is not new. But just
because we’re aware of it doesn’t mean it’s not affecting teens today,
especially in the age of social media. Look no further than a teen’s
outstretched hand, and their cellphone, to find their greatest source of peer
pressure. All those posts on social media can make
drinking seem glamorous or cool.
Teens Drink Because They’re Bored
Many teens admit they started experimenting with alcohol because
they didn’t really have anything better on the agenda. Yes, teens have school
and homework, but what other activities or responsibilities does your teen
have? Do they have a part-time job or have extra responsibilities at home such
as picking up a younger sibling from school?
Teens can also take up a new hobby, join a sports team, or find a
local volunteer opportunity to stay busy. Activities help teens make new
friends, get valuable leadership experience opportunities that will look great
on college applications, and have some fun.
Problems with friends — cutting ties with old
friends or making new friends you don’t know
Resisting authority — breaking family rules
Parents Can Prevent Underage Drinking by Talking to Their Kids
It may feel like our words fall on deaf ears, but kids are
listening. Get to know who your kids are hanging out with and where they’re
spending free time. One of the best ways parents can prevent
underage drinking is by talking to their kids. Start by learning
the facts from experts. When you can back up your statements with facts, kids
are more likely to listen.
Find simple opportunities to discuss underage drinking while
you’re driving carpool, on the way home from a friend’s house, or out running
errands. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. While teens may try to act grown up,
many are looking for parents to be the adult in the room and to set clear
guidelines about underage drinking. The
teenage years are a time when kids are growing and exerting their independence.
Do your part to help them grow into adults you’ll both be proud of.