Underage drinking is a serious public health problem in the US. Alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among America’s young people and poses enormous health and safety risks.
With graduation parties and Memorial Day BBQs taking place this weekend, summer is around the corner, and it’s an important time to talk with your kids about alcohol.
At what age do kids start drinking?
Believe it or not, the average age for a first drink is 14.
Most underage drinking is in the form of binge drinking.
People ages 12-20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the US. Although young people drink less often than adults do, when they drink, they drink more. That is because young people consume more than 90 percent of their alcohol by binge drinking.
Why is alcohol attractive to teens?
As children mature, it is natural for them to assert their independence, seek new challenges and try taking risks. Many teens want to try alcohol, but often do not fully recognize its negative effects on their health and behavior (see below for why it’s dangerous). Other reasons young people drink alcohol: Peer pressure/to fit in, increased independence, stress/to escape or relax, to feel grown up among peers, to rebel, to relieve boredom or out of curiosity.
Teens’ Perception of Alcohol Use
Almost half of teens (44 percent) do not see a “great risk” in drinking 5 or more drinks nearly every day.
There is low social disapproval from peers: Only 34 percent strongly disapprove of “teens your age getting drunk.”
It’s easy to get: 77 percent say alcohol is easily accessible. Also, 53 percent of current underage drinkers reported family and friends as their source for alcohol they consumed.
Underage Drinking is Dangerous
There is a range of risks and negative consequences. Underage drinking:
- Causes many deaths. Each year, 4,300 young people die in alcohol-related deaths as a result of underage drinking (car crashes, homicides, alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, drowning and suicides).
- Causes many injuries. In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits by people under 21 for injuries and other conditions related to alcohol.
- Impairs judgment. Drinking can lead to poor decisions about engaging in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, sexual activity (such as unprotected sex) and aggressive or violent behavior.
- Increases the risk of physical and sexual assault. Underage drinkers are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.
- Increases the risk of alcohol problems later in life. Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.
Other Risk Factors:
- Teen brains are more vulnerable to alcohol. Research shows that the teen brain doesn’t fully develop until 25. Alcohol can alter this development, potentially affecting brain structure and function. This may cause cognitive or learning problems and/or make the brain more prone to alcohol dependence. This is especially risky when people start drinking heavily at young ages.
- Mixing alcohol and prescription medicine is especially dangerous. It can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, loss of coordination and puts you at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems and difficulties breathing.
- Alcohol and marijuana is also a dangerous combination, significantly impairing judgment. The level of intoxication and secondary effects experienced can be unpredictable. Learn more >
What Parents Can Do
Parents, you hold tremendous influence on whether your child decides to drink or not drink. Be clear to your teen that you disapprove of underage drinking. Talk about the dangers of drinking. Here are other things you can do:
- If you choose to drink, model responsible drinking behavior.
- Sometimes we unintentionally send kids the message that we need alcohol to cope with problems or have a good time. After a long, stressful day, instead of pouring yourself a glass of wine or beer, try modeling healthy behavior like deep breathing, exercise or stretching.
- Research shows that a child with a parent who binge drinks is much more likely to binge drink than a child whose parents do not binge drink.
- If you are struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, reach out for help.
- Do not make alcohol available to your child.
- Be actively involved in your child’s life and have regular conversations with your teen about what’s going on and how she/he is feeling.
- Get to know your children’s friends – as well as their parents/caregivers.
- Encourage your teen to participate in healthy and fun activities that do not involve alcohol. If your child seeks new challenges, guide them toward healthy risks.
- Kids ages 11-14 see approximately 1,000 alcohol ads a year. Discuss what you see and help put context around the alcohol messaging your child receives from friends and the media.
The best thing you can do is communicate regularly with your teen. Here’s how:
- Try to preserve a position of objectivity and openness. If you want to have a productive conversation with your teen, try to keep an open mind and remain curious and calm. That way, you child is more likely to be receptive to what you have to say.
- Ask open-ended questions. These are questions that elicit more than just a “yes” or “no” response from your teen and will lead to a more engaging conversation.
- Let your teen know you hear her. Use active listening and reflect back what you are hearing from your teen— either verbatim, or just the sentiment. For example, I’m hearing that you feel overwhelmed, and that you think drinking helps you relax. Is that right?”
- Discuss the negative effects of alcohol, and what that means in terms of mental and physical health, safety and making good decisions. Talk about the long-term effects.
- If you’re child’s interested in drinking, ask her why – and what might happen if she does. This gets your teen to think about her future, what her boundaries are around drinking – and some of the possible negative consequences (she may be late to practice, do something stupid in front of her friends, feel hungover.) It will also give you insight into what is important to her.
- Off empathy and compassion. Let your child know you understand. The teen years can be tough. Acknowledge that everyone struggles sometimes, but alcohol is not a useful or healthy way to cope with problems. Let your child know that he/she can trust you.
- Remind your child that you are there for support and guidance – and that it’s important to you that she/he is healthy and happy and to makes safe choices.
- If there is a history of addiction or alcoholism in your family, then your child has a much greater risk of developing a problem. As a parent you need to be aware of this elevated risk and discuss it with your child regularly, as you would with any disease. Learn more >
- Is there a problem? Keep an eye on how your child is coping. Does he or she seem withdrawn or uninterested in the usual activities. These are signs that your child might be hiding something or need some guidance. If you are concerned about your child, call our toll-free parent helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373) to speak with a trained and caring specialist.
If You’re Throwing a Party:
- Supervise all parties to make sure there is no alcohol – and make sure your teens know the rules ahead of time.
- Set a start and end time for the party.
- Make sure an adult is at home during the party and regularly checking in.
If Your Teen is Attending a Party:
- Know where your child will be. Call the parents in advance to verify the occasion and location.
- Indicate your expectations to your child and the parent hosting the party.
- If the activity seems inappropriate, express concern and keep your child home.
- Assure your child that they can call you to be picked up whenever needed.
- Use this sample contract as a guide to establish rules about drugs and alcohol.
If you are worried about your child’s drinking or drug use, please call our toll-free parent helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373) to speak with a trained and caring specialist.
Wishing you and your family a safe and healthy Memorial Day weekend and summer.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Fact Sheet
- National Survey on Drug Use and Health
- Partnership Attitude Tracking Study 2013
- Parents 360
- Rand Corporation
- #GotYourBack helps teens identify the signs of alcohol poisoning and empowers them to take action to help a friend – and even save a life. Learn more >
- Shelby Allen’s life was tragically cut short by alcohol poisoning after a night of binge drinking. Read her story >
- AlcoholScreening.org helps people assess their drinking patterns to see if alcohol is harming their health. Visit alcoholscrening.org >
- Police Chief Asks Parents to Face the Realities of Teen Drinking (The Washington Post) Learn more >
- Find out how to have meaningful, productive conversations with your teen about marijuana. Visit our Marijuana Talk Kit >
We are facing an epidemic in our country. Heroin and other opioids are ravaging our communities. Deaths from heroin increased 248% between 2010 and 2014. More Americans die from drug overdoses than in car crashes, and this increasing trend is driven by Rx painkillers.
Too many families are struggling and don’t know where to turn. Enough is enough. It’s time to raise awareness about what is happening around us every day, and to help prevent and treat opioid abuse and addiction.
With funding and support from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) in the eastern United States, we launched a comprehensive resource to help families and communities address the country’s growing heroin and prescription drug abuse crisis.
This new resource Heroin and Other Opioids: From Understanding to Action provides parents with information, support for their family and treatment resources for their loved one.
It can be hard to understand how someone can go from prescription pain medicine abuse to heroin. The resources’ short, powerful, animated film explains this progression while illustrating the epidemic’s devastation to communities.
The mobile-friendly resource also includes:
• Facts about heroin’s risks and effects
• A guide on what medications can be abused
• An interactive infographic that shows one teen’s path from painkiller abuse to heroin
• Information on safeguarding and disposal of unused, expired medications
• Help for a loved one struggling with an opioid addiction treatment locators
• A medication-assisted treatment e-Book explaining the medications that can help with an opioid addiction: Methadone, Buprenorphine and Naltrexone
• Help for communities creating a plan for safe drug disposal
• A community education presentation titled “Heroin and Other Opioids: From Understanding to Action” that can be delivered by local law enforcement and their community partners.
• A directory of state substance abuse agencies and initiatives to address heroin and other opioids
Families concerned about a loved one who is using heroin, other opioids or any other drug of abuse can contact our toll-free Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373) where they will speak with a caring and trained specialist who will listen, help develop a plan of action and identify community resources.
Help us end the heroin epidemic in our country. Please visit this online resource at drugfree.org/heroin to gain an understanding of this vital issue and how you and others in your community can take action to affect change. #endmedicineabuse
The post You Can Help End the Heroin Epidemic. Find Out How appeared first on Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
“Wait, what? No. No, no, no, no, no.” That was the gut-punch reaction I felt when I heard the devastating news that Prince – THE Prince – had died. I didn’t want to believe it. I still can’t believe it, actually. Prince is this ethereal legend that I think most of us strangely assumed would live forever.
Prince was my go-to, know-every-lyric, sing-at-the-top-of-my-lungs favorite artist growing up, as was his “posse”: The Time, Sheila E, Vanity 6. Hearing “Controversy” on the radio when I was 10, being at a slumber party the first time I saw Purple Rain, playing Darling Nikki backwards to hear his secret message at the end and, Diamonds and Pearls in college. I was lucky enough to see him twice in concert – his tiny frame, high heels and palpable energy jumping (literally) from instrument to instrument is really other-worldly.
And as each story comes out, pointing to a possible opioid overdose as the cause of his sudden death, my heart sinks further and further that another life could have possibly been taken by this devastating epidemic. Not again. It is taking far too many lives of beautiful, creative and beloved individuals – in fact, 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
We need to make everyone – our families, our kids, our communities – aware of this dangerous, addictive behavior. And not just that, we need to move awareness into action.
For me, that’s two-fold, both as a parent and as an executive at the Partnership. While we wait for the results of the toxicology report for definite answers, that doesn’t stop the questions coming from families who look to us for how to talk with their kids about the headlines surrounding his death. And that doesn’t stop questions from my own kids.
While my 10-year-old son didn’t have a connection to Prince like I did, he was curious and sad about his death. He asked me about how he died, and I took a breath and said, “We don’t know yet.” But I took the opportunity to talk about the reports that it could be from abusing prescription pills. I said, “Remember how we talked about how some medicine is good, but some medicine can be harmful, especially if you take too much, or if it’s not yours? Well, there’s a chance that’s what happened to Prince.” We then talked about how sad it is to lose someone so talented to drugs. “So buddy, that’s why you shouldn’t even take a chance. Drugs, including pills, can be really, really dangerous even if your friends may think they are no big deal.”
Honestly, I wish I didn’t have to have this conversation. Whether it’s our favorite music icon or our neighbor or relative – when will these overdoses stop?
Enough is enough. Please, safeguard your medications. Learn more about these drugs and their risks. Talk to your kids. Talk to each other – as parents – about what we can all do to keep our families safe from this devastating epidemic. And if you or someone you know needs help, please call our toll-free helpline 1-855-DRUGFREE to speak with one of our trained and caring specialists.