Although alcohol is a socially acceptable drug, it is still a drug and it can be addicting and dangerous. It is also readily accessible to millions of children across the country. Given these facts, it probably isn’t too surprising to most that alcohol is used by more adolescents in the U.S. than tobacco or illicit drugs. The statistics are staggering: Alcohol abuse is linked with approximately 75,000 deaths per year and is a factor in approximately 41% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents. The average age when youth first try alcohol is 11 years for boys and 13 years for girls. A 2001 study by the University of Michigan found 22% of eighth graders, 39% of tenth graders, and 50% of twelfth graders reported having used alcohol in the last month. In this table from the same study, 51% of eighth graders, 70% of tenth graders, and 80% of twelfth graders reported having used alcohol at least once in their lifetime. Perhaps most concerning is that 13% of eighth graders, 25% of tenth graders, and 30% of twelfth graders reported engaging in binge drinking in the last two weeks. An overview of the study can be found here.
Among youth, the use of alcohol and other drugs has also been linked to unintentional injuries, physical fights, academic and occupational problems, and illegal behavior. Long-term alcohol abuse is associated with liver disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological damage as well as psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety, and antisocial personality disorder.
What can I do as a parent to help my teen?
Don’t have a double standard. Teens are quick to pick up on and resent the hypocritical and inconsistent behavior of their parents. Statistics show that parents’ drinking behavior and favorable attitudes about drinking have been associated with adolescents’ initiating and continuing drinking. In contrast, children who are warned about alcohol by their parents and children who describe being closer to their parents are less likely to start drinking. Talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol abuse. Whenever the opportunity arises, educate and instruct your children. Be a good example and show good judgment. If your teen has been known to use alcohol or there is a family history of addiction problems, remove all the alcohol from the home.
Lack of parental support, monitoring, and communication have been significantly related to frequency of drinking, heavy drinking, and drunkenness among teens. Harsh, inconsistent discipline and hostility or rejection toward children have also been found to significantly predict adolescent drinking and alcohol-related problems. Keep this in mind as you interact with and instruct your children.
Clearly this is a serious problem that should not be ignored. At some point parents may decide they cannot handle it on their own. If your teen has a problem with alcohol that is affecting his academics and relationships or causing depression, the time to act is now. Please seek the professional assistance of those who have the training, experience and understanding to help your teen navigate through this difficult issue.
The following are just a few sites that offer good information and resources for parents.
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry - Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs
- DoSomething.org - Alcohol Abuse
- Health.com - Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse
- LiveStrong.com - Alcohol
Please explore our website or call an admissions counselor at 866.694.8882 for additional information about how Wood Creek Academy can help your family.