Underage drinking & its Impact
Alcohol & Underage Drinking
Prevalence of teen alcohol use.
Underage drinking is a leading public health problem in the United States with comprehensive stats showing it is the drug of choice for American teens and young adults. Rates of underage drinking and substance abuse are noticeably higher in urban areas than suburban and rural areas. Possible reasons for this are that urban areas have more stores that sell alcohol; display more alcohol ads; and are often too preoccupied with gang activity to address underage drinking.
Risk factors for teen alcohol use.
While the causes of childhood and teenage alcohol abuse include many social, psychological and behavioral factors, being the child of an alcoholic or having several alcoholic family members is highly correlated with underage drinking. Children of alcoholics are between 4 and 10 times more likely to become alcoholics than peers with no alcoholic relatives. Children of alcoholics are also more likely to begin drinking at a young age and to develop alcohol abuse problems more rapidly.
Advertising and peer pressure (the single strongest factor) also impact whether and when underage drinking begins. Peers tend to have major sway when it comes to drinking choices, since teens may feel pressured to drink in order to fit in.
Other common risk factors for underage drinking include stress at home or school; family problems; a history of behavioral or mental health problems; or life transitions such as moving and changing schools.
Defending your teen against underage drinking.
Parents of children and teenagers exhibiting the warning signs of underage drinking are urged to intervene immediately. Many treatment options are available, and swift intervention could prevent long-term problems. Talk to your teen about the risks of underage drinking today.
Underage Binge Drinking
Effects of binge drinking.
Binge drinking can be extremely dangerous, particularly for inexperienced, underage drinkers. Consequences of binge drinking can include heightened risk for alcohol addiction; dangerous driving decisions; unprotected sex; and damage to the liver and kidneys. Binge drinking may also lead to alcohol poisoning, which sends many teens to the emergency room every year.
Binge drinking tends to harm girls more than boys. A study from the University of California, San Diego and Stanford University found that underage girls who binge drink show diminished activity in brain regions linked to memory (compared to non-drinking teenagers.) The study also concluded that women might be more vulnerable than men to neurotoxic effects of underage drinking and heavy alcohol abuse during adolescence.
Another study by Susan Tapert of the University of California, San Diego found that binge drinkers’ white matter—the part of the brain that transmits signals—was abnormal compared to non-drinking teens' white matter, suggesting that underage binge drinking could affect thinking, learning and memory.