As much as parents may not like to think about it, the truth is that many kids and teens try alcohol during their middle and high school years. Some teens try or use alcohol for a variety of reasons, including to reduce stress, to feel grown up, to fit in, because it feels good, because their parents do, out of curiosity, and because it is easy to obtain. It is difficult to know which teens will only try alcohol once, which will use casually, and which will develop serious alcohol addiction and related problems later in life. Although experimentation with alcohol may be common among kids and teens, it is not safe or legal. Additionally, students do not realize when alcohol is consumed; it is absorbed into the bloodstream and affects the central nervous system which controls all body functions. Some of the risks of alcohol abuse include: difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times, impaired memory and blackouts, mental confusion, difficulty with muscle coordination, persistent learning and memory problems, liver disease, unintentional injuries, and impaired judgment.
A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 709,000 youth ages 12 to 14 in the United States are drinking beer, liquor and other alcoholic beverages.
Surprisingly, many of these underage drinkers are not just getting a friend to buy a six pack or smuggling alcohol out of the family liquor cabinet, some are getting the alcohol directly from a parent, guardian or relative. According to SAMHSA, the past month alone, more than 200,000 kids were given alcohol by a parent or other adult family member. "People who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are six times more likely than those who start at age 21 and older to develop alcohol problems. Parents and other adults need to be aware that providing alcohol to children can expose them to an increased risk for alcohol abuse and set them on a path with increased potential for addiction," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde, in the report.
Alcohol related car accidents are a leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults. Alcohol is the drug of choice among teens and many teens abuse alcohol as early as seventh grade. With spring break approaching, we are reminded to keep our kids safe. Poway has had some sad and devastating examples of teens driving while intoxicated so please talk to your kids and teens about the effects of alcohol. It is important to start discussing alcohol use and abuse with your children at an early age and keep talking about it as they grow up. The younger kids are when they begin drinking, the greater their chance of becoming addicted to alcohol. In addition, research shows that the younger children and adolescents are when they start to drink, the more likely they will be to engage in behaviors that harm themselves and others. There are excellent resources available and also tips for parents from preschool to teens - KidsHealth.org; www.SAMHSA.gov; www.DontServeTeens.gov; www.youthbingedrinking.org; www.niaaa.nih.gov/ and others.
Please help us keep your children safe and healthy. They are our future.