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Underaged Alcohol Consumption

Use of alcohol by individuals under the age of 21 is a significant health concern in the United States. Illicit use of alcohol by young people represents the most common form of substance abuse in children and teenagers, and it is an enormous safety and health risk for these individuals. The ramifications of underage alcohol use affects everyone in the country, whether individuals drink alcohol themselves or not. The issue is not merely a problem of the families who have children or teenagers who drink alcohol; it is a problem that concerns the entire nation.

Cause

for

Concern

It is estimated that nearly one-third of teens have had one alcoholic drink by the age of 15.

Nearly 60% of teens have had at least one alcoholic drink by the age of 18.

It is estimated that approximately 11% of all the alcoholic beverages consumed in the United States are consumed by individuals between the ages of 12 and 20.

Alcohol use is a significant factor in the deaths of many young people who are under the age of 21

Reasons for Use

Learn by

Association

Easy Access

Find their Identity

Learning by association is a common reason that many individuals under the age of 21 begin drinking alcohol. They observe their peers, family, and other adults drinking alcohol to feel good or reduce stress, and they attempt to drink for the same reasons. Stress reduction and peer pressure are other common reasons that many younger individuals begin and continue to use alcohol.

SAMHSA reported that young people between the ages of 12 and 14 who had reported they had used alcohol within the month prior to their survey got it for free from friends or family members, or found it in the house. Easy access to alcohol increases its potential for use and abuse.

As they grow up, children often try to assert their independence and establish their identity. They try to do this in manners that challenge authority, particularly the close authority figures they have followed most of their lives, such as teachers and parents. Use of alcohol is one way to challenge this authority, but children and adolescents do not fully understand the risks on their health and behavior.

Risk Factors

The American Psychiatric Association, APA, designates some general factors that increase the risk of alcohol use and abuse, which apply to younger individuals. Risk factors are a characteristic, condition, or behavior, such as high blood pressure or smoking, that increases the possibility of disease or injury.

Family History

A family history of alcohol use and abuse is a significant risk factor for alcohol use and abuse in any individual.

Social Factors

Social factors, such as an individual’s socioeconomic status, living conditions, and attitude toward substance abuse, can increase the risk to engage in alcohol use and abuse.

Availability

Young people living in environments where alcohol is readily available are more likely to try it

Mental Health

Co-occurring mental health disorders or a history of trauma and stress in childhood increase the risk for substance abuse of any type. Alcohol is often readily available and one of the first substances these individuals turn to.

Signs of Teenage Alcoholism

The formal diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder in anyone can only be made by a licensed mental health clinician. According to the book Underage Drinking: Examining and Preventing Youth Use of Alcohol, there are some signs of alcohol use and abuse that apply to younger individuals.

Uncharacteristic issues with attention and memory

Moodiness and issues with anger, depression, irritability

Uncharacteristic periods of low energy

Change in peer group

Prevention

Parents and the child’s teachers are instrumental in affecting the child’s attitude, particularly at a younger age. Parents especially can have a positive influence on their child. Instead of being passive, parents should take an active role.

1.

Discussing the dangers of alcohol use with their children periodically

2.

Drinking alcohol in a responsible manner themselves

3.

Making sure that open alcohol is not available in the home

4.

Supervising parties or requiring adult supervision at all parties the child attends

5.

Getting to know their child’s peers

6.

Having periodic talks with their child about life issues in genera

7.

Setting limits without being overly demanding and restrictive

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