While the underage drinking numbers have declined in recent years, thanks in large part to other substances becoming easier and easier to obtain, underage drinking is still prevalent. This is especially true among teenage girls.
Even with numbers dropping, just how prevalent is underage drinking still? Well, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, as many as 10 million teenagers engage in underage drinking. Of those 10 million, about 6.5 million were binge drinkers and 2 million were heavy drinkers. Let’s take a deeper look at teenage drinking as well as the consequences of underage drinking effects.
What Is Underage Drinking?
In simple terms, underage drinking is the process of consuming alcohol by anyone under the legal drinking age. In the United States, that consists of anyone who is under the age of 21. Due to the number of underage drinkers in the country, it’s considered a serious public health problem.
By the age of 15, almost 30% of all teenagers in this country have had at least one drink, with that number shooting up to almost 60% by the time they hit the age of 18. In 2018 alone, a staggering 7.1 million people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Because it’s harder for teenagers to get a hold of alcohol, they are much more likely to binge drink and drink in excess as well.
What Leads To Underage Drinking?
There are many different ways that teens and young adults can get their hands on alcohol before they are of legal age. There are also many different factors that contribute to underage drinking. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Parents Provide It
Yes, those few sips of wine that you let your teenager have at dinner might seem harmless enough, and it is in most cases. In fact, in some cultures, it’s viewed as completely normal. That’s not what we are talking about here, though. The issues involving parents or relatives and underage drinking goes much deeper than that.
There are many parents out there who want to be the “cool parent” to their teenage son or daughter. They might even go so far as to supply alcohol to their child and their child’s friends, whether it be at their home during a party or in another setting. Not only is this illegal, but it can be dangerous because while they might be drinking under your roof, it encourages them to seek out and find alcohol in other settings as well.
Laws Aren’t Being Followed
Parents aside, underage drinking has never been more prevalent because the alcohol itself has never been easier to get. Think about back when you were a teenager. Chances are you knew someone that knew someone with an older sibling who could get you and all your friends alcohol. That person with the older brother or sister might have even been you.
While there are laws in place that for the most part are enforced by the police, there are plenty of people who choose not to follow the laws from parents all the way down to the gas station clerk who isn’t checking IDs on that case of beer.
Children Are Stealing It
Snagging what’s left of that bottle of vodka in your parent’s liquor cabinet might almost seem like a tradition at this point in life since almost everyone has done it at one point or another during their childhood. However, something that might seem innocent can have significant consequences. While you as a parent might not know that your bottle of vodka has gone missing, if that missing bottle results in something bad happening, you might ultimately be held responsible. That’s why it is important to safely secure your alcohol in a way that your children can’t get to it.
So your friend snagged that bottle from their parent’s liquor cabinet. Or maybe his older sibling snagged you all the newest flavor of that seltzer that you have been hearing so much about and it’s being passed around in a circle of your closest friends.
In this situation, many teens will choose to take a sip when it gets to them in fear that they will get made fun of or kicked out of the group if they don’t. This is called peer pressure. Sometimes the need or want to fit in is so great that you do something you know you shouldn’t do in order to be accepted by a group of people.
Unfortunately, parents themselves play a much greater role in underage drinking than they might even realize. When polled, 2 out of three teens said it was easy to get alcohol from their homes without parents knowing about it. Of those, one-third said that it was easy to obtain alcohol from their own parents knowingly, and 2 out of 5 teens said it was even easier when it was from a friend’s parent. In addition, a whopping 25% said they’ve attended a party where minors were drinking in front of parents.
The Consequences of
What leads to underage drinking?
Parents Provided It
Children are Stealing It
Laws Aren't Being Followed
Risks of Underage Drinking
What Are Some of the Health Risks Associated With Underage Drinking?
While underage drinking effects are well known and well documented when it comes to teens and alcohol, they can be even more severe. Due to the fact that teenagers are still developing, alcohol can have a significant impact on mental and physical development. Teens can face immediate negative consequences as a result of underage drinking, such as brain damage and delayed puberty. Indirect health issues such as car crashes and sexual assault are also common problems from drinking.
This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to health risks associated with underage drinking. Let’s take a look at some of the others.
Since teenagers are much more likely to binge drink or drink in excess in a short period of time compared to adults, they’re also more likely to suffer from alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning occurs when enough alcohol is drunk that the body essentially begins to reject it and shut down. Alcohol poisoning can negatively affect the brain and significantly impact balance and speech. It can also affect the nerves that control breathing and the heartbeat, and it can also lead to hypothermia.
Just as it does with adults, alcohol can impair a teenager’s judgment and slow down their reaction time. This can be incredibly dangerous and result in accidents, injuries, and even death. Teenagers for the most part have no experience when it comes to dealing with the way alcohol affects the body and brain. Therefore, they aren’t likely to be as cautious when it comes to the way they behave. On top of that, their tolerance level is lower and their body can’t metabolize alcohol as quickly as their adult counterparts. All this has the potential for dangerous situations.
Drinking alcohol already increases the risk of developing liver damage. Teens and young adults are even more susceptible due to the fact that their bodies are still developing.
Unfortunately, the harmful effects associated with teenage alcohol abuse aren’t limited to just alcohol. Teenagers who have experimented with alcohol are significantly more likely to start using and abusing other substances like tobacco, marijuana, and “hard” drugs such as opioids and benzos.
What Are Some Signs That My Daughter Might Be Abusing Alcohol?
Just because you’ve made a point to keep alcohol away from your child at home doesn’t mean they aren’t getting their hands on it elsewhere. As we’ve discussed, many teens and young adults drink outside the home, including at other people’s houses. That’s why it’s important to know and be able to recognize some of the warning signs when it comes to teenage alcohol use and abuse. The following are some of the most common warning signs when it comes to underage drinking:
- Becoming more rebellious
- Losing interest or caring less about activities they enjoyed
- Smelling alcohol on their breath
- Finding alcohol hidden in their room or in their backpack
- Slurred speech
- Coordination issues
- Low energy levels
- Change in their social group
- Problems in school
- Changes in grades
- Abnormal mood swings
Is Underage Drinking More Prevalent In Girls Or Boys?
While underage drinking is prevalent across the board, studies show that teenage girls are more likely to engage in underage drinking than teenage boys. It’s also easier for teenage girls to get alcohol than boys. In fact, teenage girls were 25% more likely to drink than their male counterparts.
This is significantly different from the numbers we see in adults, where adult men are much more likely to drink than adult women. It’s believed that this contrast is the result of teenage girls simply stopping drinking once they turn 21 as opposed to their male counterparts who continue to drink even once they become of legal age.
Want To Know More About The Consequences of Teenage Drinking?
Teenage drinking not only has negative effects now; it can also result in significant health problems later in life. If you or someone you know is a teenage girl who is suffering from alcohol abuse, getting help right away can be potentially life-saving. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs that are designed specifically for teen and adult women.