More Than Just a Few Sips: Understanding Trends of Underage Drinking
The Trends of Underage drinking, get the scoop here.
The good news: Teenage alcohol use is the lowest it’s been in 20 years. The bad news: pretty much everything else.
Sixty-eight percent of students reported having consumed more than just a few sips of alcohol by the end of high school, and 28 percent reported having done so by eighth grade. Fifty-two percent of 12th graders and 12 percent of eighth graders have been drunk at least once.
Why is this a big deal? Because teens who start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol-dependent.
Even though underage drinking rates have fallen, teens are starting to use alcohol at increasingly younger ages.
When teens try alcohol, they often don’t realize the damaging effects drinking can have on their lives and loved ones.
The physical and emotional upheaval of adolescence may itself be a risk for underage drinking, but there are other factors that make teens more likely to start drinking.
ο Gender: Males are more likely to engage in heavy drinking, but it’s easier for females to become addicted.
ο Peer pressure: Teenagers want to fit in. It only makes sense that they might start drinking if it’s the “cool” thing to do.
ο Accessibility: When alcohol is easy to access at home, teens might think drinking is OK.
ο Genetics: A family history of alcoholism makes a teen four times more likely to develop an alcohol problem.
How Do I Talk to My Child About Underage Drinking?
The stats on teen alcohol use are enough to make any parent panic, but concerned parents already have a big leg up in preventing teen drinking. Family support has a major impact on teens’ choices, and you can be proactive by discussing underage drinking with your teen and making your feelings clear.
When speaking to your kids about alcohol, here are some things to keep in mind:
ο Be open and honest. Share statistics on the effects of drinking, and discuss your own experiences with alcohol.
ο Share your family history. If you have a family history of alcohol abuse, your teen should understand that he is at greater risk for developing a substance abuse problem than his peers.
ο Find opportunities for discussion. Share photos and media stories about people injured or killed as a result of drugs and alcohol.
ο Practice saying “no.” Role-play different scenarios, and have your kids come up with assertive ways to say “no” to alcohol.
ο Brush up on your slang. Teens are constantly inventing street names for drugs and alcohol. Make sure your slang vocabulary is updated.
Above all, make it clear that your teen can always come to you for help or advice without being judged – even if he or she has made a mistake. With careful listening and a positive attitude, you can help your children make smart decisions about alcohol in their teenage years and beyond.
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