- The adolescent brain is more vulnerable to brain damage, toxins, alcohol, and addiction, because adult warning signals do not occur in the adolescent brain, and the adolescent brain is still growing and maturing. The adolescent continues to develop and change until the age of 25. During that time alcohol can alter and change the brain’s ability to make safe and healthy choices, and damage their short-term memory. (National Institute of Drug Abuse research)
- Mixing alcohol and energy drinks. Many teens and college students are mixing energy drinks with alcohol, leaving them at higher risk for injury and other alcohol-related consequences. They can drink more and longer without feeling drunk. They are still drunk, but don’t think they are.
- Young people drink for many reasons, such as to bond with their friends. Girls may want to feel more comfortable around boys, and teens want to be like older people.
- Alcohol affects girls’ (and women’s) bodies differently than it affects boys (and men’s).
- In 2014 in Spokane County, 11% of adolescents reported binge drinking (higher than that of Washington state (9%). Binge drinking increased as age increased. (Spokane Counts 2015, Spokane Regional Health District)
In 2014, 14% of adolescents reported using an illicit drug in the last month in Spokane County. Research related to substance use by adolescent youth is clear. Findings indicate that substance use is linked to a wide range of academic, social, mental and physical consequences including poor academic progress, dropping out of school, increased risky behaviors, teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency and crime (Hawkins et al. 1992).
For example, Mandell and colleagues found in 2002 that moderate substance use among middle and high school students substantially lowered overall academic achievement (standardized test scores) – a full level – as compared to groups of students with minimal or no engagement in substance use.
(April 2015 Washington State Needs Assessment Profile, Adolescent Substance Abuse, p. 70.
- Alcohol kills more kids than any other drug. (U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011)
- Students who started drinking before
the age of 14 are much more likely to be chemically dependent later on
in life. Binge drinking starts as early as middle school. Many teens
take their first drink at age 13. (40% of children who start drinking at
age 14 or younger report having problems with chemical dependency,
compared with 10% of those who wait until they turn 21, (the legal
drinking age in Washington.)
- 12-13 yr. olds are binge-drinking.
14% of 8th graders and 50% of high school seniors have been drunk. Half
of the children between the ages of 12-20 are drinkers, buying 17% of
all alcohol sold in the U.S.
- MADD. More than 2,700 kids died in alcohol-related crashes in 2008. (MADD - Mothers Against Drunk Driving)
- Parental drinking to handle stress,
to be at ease socially, or to elevate mood is behavior that often is
imitated by children. Model the behaviors you expect from your
- Parent awareness and involvement are the most effective influence—they
are critical. Teens who learn about the risks of alcohol and drug use
at home from their parents or caregivers, are much less likely to use
drugs than those teens who do not receive those messages at home. 2/3
of teens who don’t use drugs, refrain because they fear that they will
lose their parents’ respect and trust.
- What isn’t good for children usually isn’t good for adults.
Drinking alcohol as an adult also presents great risks—health, social,
family, deadly DUI’s, alcoholism, violence, loss of family and
employment, even jail/prison sentences.
Talk, talk and talk some more.
- See the topic Addictions - Alcohol, which includes "What Parents Can Do" and "Youth and Alcohol" on this website.
- Talk with children as early as possible,
and often about the effects and consequences of alcohol abuse. Teach
children that alcohol and drugs can impact every phase of their life,
reduce their ability to learn, impact their health, family, friends and
people they don’t even know. Parents should not be blind or in denial
regarding their children’s involvement in anything that would put them
in harm’s way.”
Be aware, and be there.
- Teens who learn about the risks of alcohol use from their parents
or caregivers are much less likely to use drugs or alcohol than those
who do not receive those messages. Parental awareness and involvement is
critical. Two thirds of teens who don’t use drugs or alcohol, do so
because they fear that they will lose their parents’ respect and trust.
Signs of teens who are drinking or abusing drugs:
- Changing their set of friends
- Changes in behavior
- Poor attendance at school.
- Talk openly with your kids.
- Know who their friends are, who they are with, and what they are doing.
- Set values within the family and help them define value statements and their personal “code” of behavior.
- Read the book Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide To The Adolescent Brain For Parents and Teens, by David Walsh, PhD.
Research and learn from others.
- Research and learn from the success of others.
The community can help bring about changes in schools. Palm Beach Co.,
Florida schools identified the kids who were most at risk, looking at
the whole child (behavior, social, emotional and academic). The school
staff and parents worked together to reduce drug and alcohol use among
teens. Teen drinking is a community problem. Once parents were invited
to participate, significant results occurred. Ask for help from
parents, clergy, school counselors and other county resources. Ask
school guidance counselors to speak honestly and openly to parents about
the many issues facing students. (Alison Adler, Chief Safety and
Learning Environments Advisor)
- Learn about the affect of food additives on children’s behavior.
- Teen drinking is a community problem.
Ask for help from clergy, school counselors and other community
resources, such as mayors, city council persons, law enforcement, etc.
Stop Drinking - and Tell your Children Why
- A warning for women of childbearing age. The CDC states that women ages 15-44 should avoid alcohol unless they are using birth control. Alcohol can harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant. The CDC estimates more than 3 million women are at risk of exposing a developing fetus to alcohol. This warning is to reduce the cases of fetal alcohol syndrome. (CBS Morning News, USA Today, February 3, 2016)
- A Warning to Men and Boys: There are 4 ways a man's health affects his offspring. A fathers lifestyle may have far more effect on a child's health than doctors originally believed. Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center found, that there are 4 ways a man's health affects his offspring:
1) An alcoholic father raises the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome and developmental difficulties, as three quarters of babies with fetal alcohol problems had fathers who were alcoholics.
2) Kids of older fathers (40 and older) have higher rates of schizophrenia, autism, and birth defects.
3) Your dad's diet impacts how you react to food.
4) A dad who smokes may cause DNA damage.
Fertility specialists say men are not immune to reproductive aging. A man's lifestyle, age, and genetics can play just as significant a role in the health of a baby as the mother's health. ("Dads lifestyle linked to kids' health issues," and "Influence of paternal preconception exposures on their offspring: through epigenetics to phenotype," American Journal of Stem Cells, April 2016)