You’ve probably heard this message from your parents, teachers, or coaches: underage drinking is a bad idea. We’re glad they’re talking, and we hope you’re listening, because it’s worth your time.
There’s a good chance you know someone who’s had experience with underage drinking. A new study from Talk it Out NC found that a majority of students surveyed know people their age who’ve tried alcohol. So, you could find yourself in a situation where you’re encouraged to try alcohol, even if you really don’t want to. It can be hard to say “no” but when you consider the negative consequences of underage drinking, the choice is much easier. Here are five of the top reasons not to drink alcohol in high school.
1. It Could Harm Your Developing Brain
You already know that your body has changed a lot over the past few years, but your brain is still evolving. You may feel that you’re getting better at critical thinking, reasoning, and empathizing with others. These are all ways that your brain is “growing up.” In fact, your brain will continue to develop until you’re 25 years old!
Unfortunately, misusing alcohol and drugs can cause damage to your brain in this vital developmental phase. Studies show that drinking alcohol takes a major toll on the adolescent brain and can impair the development of your cognitive (understanding and thinking) abilities, attentiveness, and executive functioning skills. These skills help you stay organized, perform well in school, and make important decisions.
Because alcohol can be addictive, people who drink heavily as adolescents can be at risk of becoming dependent on alcohol later in life and may possibly suffer serious brain damage. You, and your brain, deserve better.
2. It Impairs Your Judgment
Just as your brain is still developing, you’re also continuing to hone your decision-making skills and impulse control. However, alcohol reduces inhibitions and can cause teenagers to make bad decisions. Underage drinking can lead you to get into fights, engage in unsafe sexual activity, try stupid stunts, or drive under the influence of alcohol.
3. It May Cause You to Lose Your License
If you drink and get behind the wheel of a car, you put yourself, your passengers, and everyone on the road in danger because your abilities are impaired. According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), “In 2020, there were 1,885 young drivers who died in traffic crashes, a 17% increase from 1,616 in 2019.”
Not only is underage drinking and driving dangerous—it’s also illegal. North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy which means that if you’ve had any amount of alcohol and drive, your driver’s license will immediately be suspended for 30 days. If you’re convicted, your license could be revoked for 12 months.
4. It Can Make You Sick
Imagine that you wake up with a raging headache, feel like you might throw up, and can’t remember parts of the night before. Sound like your worst nightmare? That’s what happens when you drink too much alcohol, especially if you binge drink.
Because your teenage body is still developing, your liver and other organs may have a hard time metabolizing alcohol. This can lead to alcohol-induced illness with symptoms like vomiting, dehydration, dizziness, headaches, and loss of coordination. In severe cases, you may even black out and have no memory of what happened.
5. It Can Spoil Your Dreams
You spend a lot of time in high school preparing for life after graduation—taking standardized tests, visiting colleges, and staying up late to study for exams. All that hard work pays off when you’re accepted into your dream school, but it can just as easily be taken away by one avoidable mistake.
If a college admits you and later finds out that you got in legal trouble for underage drinking, they have the right to void the offer of admission. An offense such as a DWI can also disqualify you from scholarships and grants and make it challenging to get a job.
Choose Yourself First
It can be hard to tell your friends “No” when they’re asking you to drink alcohol with them or go to a party where you know underage drinking will be the main focus. But now you’re armed with some of the best reasons not to drink alcohol in high school.
Next time you find yourself in a tricky position with your friends, you’ll be equipped with reasons to stay sober. Knowledge is power, and knowing why drinking alcohol is dangerous for teens will help you feel confident in making the decision not to drink underage.
It’s important to remember that your real friends won’t pressure you or shun you for choosing not to drink alcohol. Surround yourself with friends who support your decision to stay sober, and be a good friend by using positive peer pressure to encourage your peers to live their best lives without alcohol. Take the Pledge together and stick to it. Your future self will thank you!