A product that is only legal for those that are 21 years of age, alcohol is
a depressant that comes from organic sources including grapes, grains and
berries. These products are fermented and distilled into a liquid.
Alcohol affects every part of the body. It is carried through the
bloodstream to the brain, stomach, internal organs, liver, kidneys,
muscles everywhere. It is absorbed very quickly (as short
as 5 - 10 minutes) and can stay in the body for several hours. 1
Alcohol affects the central nervous system and brain. It can make users
loosen up, relax, and feel more comfortable, or can make them more aggressive.
Unfortunately, it also lowers their inhibitions, which can set them up for
embarrassing or dangerous behavior. In fact, each year approximately 5,000
young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking.
This statistic includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle accidents; 1,600
homicides; 300 suicides; and hundreds of others stemming from injuries such as
falls, burns and drownings.2
A standard drink is:
One 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler;
One 5-ounce glass of wine; or
1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.3
It's no secret that society gives children mixed messages about alcohol. As a
parent, you should know that underage drinking can have serious consequences.
The teenage brain is still developing. Did you know that alcohol can impair the
parts of the brain that control the following:
Motor coordination. This includes the ability to
walk, drive and process information.4
Impulse control. Drinking lowers inhibitions
and increases the chances that a person will do something that they will
regret when they are sober.5
Memory. Impaired recollection and even
blackouts can occur when too much alcohol has been consumed.6
Judgment and decision making
Drinking may lead young people to engage in risky behaviors that can
result in illness, injury and even death.7
Many kids start drinking in middle school. In fact, one out of every two 8th
graders has tried alcohol.8 Additionally, more kids use alcohol
than use tobacco or illicit drugs and more children are
killed by alcohol than all illegal drugs combined.9
But the risky behavior does not end there.
Dependence. People who reported starting
to drink before the age of 15 were four times more likely to also report
meeting the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.
In fact, new research shows that the serious drinking problems (including
what is called alcoholism) typically associated with middle age actually
begin to appear much earlier, during young adulthood and even adolescence.10
Illicit drug use. More than 67 percent of young
people who start drinking before the age of 15 will try an illicit drug.
Children who drink are over 7 times more likely to use any illicit drug,
are over 22 times more likely to use marijuana, and 50 times more likely
to use cocaine than children who never drink.11
Sexual activity. Alcohol use by teens is a
strong predictor of both sexual activity and unprotected sex. A survey of
high school students found that 18 percent of females and 39 percent of
males say it is acceptable for a boy to force sex if the girl is high or
Violence. Children who start drinking
before age 15 are 12 times more likely to be injured while under the
influence of alcohol and 10 times more likely to be in a fight after
drinking, compared with those who wait until they are 21 to drink.13
School. Student substance use precedes, and is a risk factor for, academic problems,
such as lower grades, absenteeism and high dropout rates. Alcohol can
interfere with a student's ability to think, making learning and
concentration more difficult and ultimately impeding academic performance.
In fact, the more a student uses alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, the
lower his grade point average is likely to be and the more likely he is to
drop out of school.14
Driving. When young people drink and
get into a car, they tend to make poor decisions that impact their safety.
Traffic crashes are the number one killer of teens and over one-third of
teen traffic deaths are alcohol-related.15
Parents can take the following steps to encourage their children to abstain
Spend time together regularly.
Listen and talk with your
children. Try to understand the pressures placed on them and don't
criticize their beliefs.
Keep track of where your
children are, what they are doing, and who their friends are.
Get them involved in
after-school activities so they won't be able to just "hang out"
with friends in the afternoon. This is when children are most likely to
Praise or reward children
often. If they feel good about themselves, they will be more confident and
better able to resist peer pressure.
Be a positive role model for
your children. Don't abuse alcohol or drugs.