Despite alcohol’s reputation as an acceptable and generally safe substance, the fact remains that it is still a drug, and a potentially dangerous one at that. There are a number of facts about alcohol of which all parents of teenaged children should be aware. On this subject the numbers don’t lie: Alcohol can be very dangerous.
First, parents of teenagers need to be aware that alcohol is one of the most readily available drugs in the world, and, unlike other drugs, the widespread use of alcohol is considered socially acceptable. As such, teenagers, with whom some level of rebellion and experimentation is nearly inevitable, naturally gravitate towards alcohol as an easy and “safe” drug. The average teenager begins drinking at 13 years old, and, by the time teenagers reach high school, more than 80% of them will have used alcohol.
The fact that underage drinking is illegal is obviously not enough to deter teenagers from using the drug, and, because teenagers are often ill-informed about the dangers of alcohol, many of these young people engage in risky binge drinking practices, sometimes on a regular basis. In a survey of 12th graders, for example, nearly one third of them reported having consumed five or more drinks in a row (binge drinking) at least once during the past two weeks. Parents of teenagers should note that, although binge drinking is more common in males than females, both genders display a very high percentage of teenaged binge drinkers (22% and 17%, respectively).
Alcohol consumption among any segment of the population can prove dangerous, but the substance is especially threatening to teenagers. Because teenagers’ brains are still developing (in a physical sense as well as a psychological sense), drugs and alcohol pose a much larger threat to their mental health than to that of adults. This means that teenagers are highly susceptible to permanent brain damage due to drug and alcohol consumption. Not only that, but the younger a teenager starts drinking, the more likely they are to become dependent on alcohol by the time they’re an adult. Teens who drink before the age of 15, for example, are four times more likely to become addicted to alcohol, and this likelihood increases exponentially if members of the teenager’s family happen to have a history of addiction.
Alcohol contributes to a multitude of negative conditions, and it could potentially land your teenager in any one of a number of compromising situations. For example, among teenagers under 15, those who drink are twice as likely to engage in promiscuous sexual activity than those who do not drink. Moreover, statistics indicate that alcohol plays a role in approximately two-thirds of incidences of sexual assault and date rape among young people. It is also commonly implicated as a factor in all of the four leading causes of death among young people: car crashes, unintentional injuries, suicide, and homicide.
Many parents underestimate the dangers of alcohol consumption, but this is an unfortunate mistake. Alcohol abuse among teenagers is an all-too-common habit, but just because the drug is socially acceptable does not mean that it is not dangerous. Fortunately, teenagers are sometimes relatively easily discouraged from drinking, and, many times, all it takes is a simple and honest discussion with their families. By speaking frankly with your teenager about the dangers of alcohol and your expectations for their behavior, you could help to dissuade them from the curiosity that often overtakes young people. It is very important for parents to respect the potential power of this substance and to take the steps necessary to protect their children.