April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and this year the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (NCADD) has chosen underage drinking as the focus for the annual awareness campaign. This is a pervasive problem that can have catastrophic, life-long consequences for our nation’s youth. The statistics are shocking and show that our children are using alcohol early and abusing it long before the leave for college. The good news is that the percentage of teenagers using and abusing doesn’t seem to be increasing. The bad news is that it doesn’t seem to be declining either. With nothing less than the lives and futures of our children at stake, we as a society cannot continue to shrug it off or sweep it under the rug.
- By age 10, 10% of our children have started drinking.
- By age 13, that number more than triples, approaching 33%.
- Teens that drank before they were 15 are 5 times more likely to have a problem with alcohol dependence in the last year than those who waited until they were old enough to drink legally.
- In 2006, almost 30% of American teens between the ages of 12 and 20 report drinking during the past month, with 20% binge drinking and 6% drinking heavily.
- Binge drinking is common amongst teenagers who drink and 25% of students drank more than 5 drinks in a row within the past 30 days.
- College students suffer around 600,000 alcohol-related injuries each year and alcohol-related injuries claim the lives of 1,700 college students each year.
- There are 100,000 alcohol-related sexual assaults or date rapes committed against college students each year.
- Children of alcoholics may be as much as 10 times more likely to become alcoholics as their peers.
- Statistics show that underage drinking increases a person’s risk of having an alcohol problem later in life.
- Alcohol abuse increases the risk factor for developing cancer of the mouth, larynx, and esophagus as well as liver disease.
- Underage drinking is one of the main causes of death from injuries which is the leading cause of death for Americans under 21.
- Each year, underage drinking and alcohol-related injuries take the lives of 5,000 people, 38% are car accidents, 32% from homicide, and 6% from suicide.
- Teenagers are more likely to participate in risky sexual activity when alcohol is involved which results in unplanned and unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, date rape, unplanned pregnancy, and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
Prevention Tips for Parents and Teens
- Parents – Talk to your teens about the dangers of alcohol. Help them understand the consequences and why it is illegal for people to drink before they are 21.
- Teens – Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t let someone else make your decisions for you.
- Parents – Be a good role model and set a good example. Your teen is more likely to listen to you if you are practicing what you preach.
- Teens – Talk to your parents. Ask questions and make sure you understand the real dangers of drinking.
- Parents & Teens – Agree on how you will both handle situations that arise where your teen is present at an event where other teens are drinking alcohol. By agreeing ahead of time, teens won’t need to be afraid that their parents will freak out, call the police, and ground them until college, and parents will understand how critical their reaction is to maintaining the lines of communication.
Go Alcohol Free
As part of the awareness campaign, NCADD is inviting all Americans to engage in an alcohol-free weekend from April 6 to April 8, 2012 to help spread awareness about alcohol abuse and underage drinking. For more information about Alcohol Awareness Month, visit NCADD’s website.
- Parents Held Responsible for Underage Drinking (abcnews.go.com)
- Substance Abuse in College Students (doorwaysarizona.com)
- Drunkorexia: What Parents Should Know (doorwaysarizona.com)