Dangers of Teen Drinking

Chase Gengras

Underage drinking is a serious issue that faces America today. Alcohol is the most commonly consumed substance among teenagers in the United States. The effects of underage drinking affect everyone in one way or another. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 24.6 percent of children ages 14 to 15 reported having consumed at least one alcoholic beverage in their lifetime, with more than 90 percent of these drinks consumed through binge drinking. 

Consuming alcohol as a teenager poses many risks on the consumer as well as those around them. No matter the age, drinking impairs judgment– leading to drinking and driving, unsafe sexual behavior, and aggressive behavior. Underage alcohol consumption can also interfere with brain development, and it increases the risk of alcohol problems later in life. 

The CDC states that children are inclined to drink because it is natural to participate in risky behavior, try new things, and assert their independence. Other factors like stress and peer pressure may play a role in underage drinking as well. Hall High School senior Maggie Monnes states, “I’ve definitely been in settings where I’ve felt pressured to drink.” Increased independence, and the desire for it, encourages youth to start or continue drinking— often binge drinking. 

Underage drinking is a complex issue that involves several factors, including: genetics, personality, maturity rate, and social and environmental favors. Parents, friends, teachers, and family members play a huge role in preventing underage drinking. Warning signs of underage drinking include changes in mood, academic or behavior problems, slurred speech, coordination problems, problems concentrating, and less interest in activities. 

However, underage drinking can be prevented before it begins. Approaches that include effective population-level policy strategies can reduce drinking among teenagers. The Community Preventive Services Task Force has established strategies that prevent binge drinking, including: increasing alcohol taxes, enforcing laws that prohibit sales to minors, and regulating the number of alcohol outlets. National media campaigns that target the youth and reducing exposure to alcohol advertisements can also prevent underage drinking. 

Though underage drinking is associated with adult drinking, means can be taken to prevent this. Individual-level, school-based, family-based, community-based, and policy-level interventions can be held to educate and provide resources. Parents play a key role in providing information and resources to stop the drinking before it starts. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all teenagers be regularly screened for alcohol abuse. Professional treatment options include attending counseling sessions, using prescribed medication to reduce alcohol cravings, and participating in family therapy.