Underage alcohol consumption among most serious health hazards to youth

The drug of choice used most frequently by American teenagers is alcohol. It is consumed more frequently than all other illicit drugs combined, and is the drug most likely to be associated with injury or death. April is Alcohol Awareness Month and a good time to bring awareness to this growing problem.

Too many teens, and their parents, view drinking as almost a “rite of passage” and harmless as long as the teen doesn’t drink and drive. That is an attitude that needs to change. Alcohol is a powerful, mind-altering drug that affects the brain and all of the developing organs. Alcohol is involved in teen auto crashes, sexually transmitted diseases, homicides, and suicides.

We’re seeing younger and younger children using alcohol. A child who starts drinking before the age
of 15 is four times as likely to develop alcoholism in adulthood as children who wait to consume alcohol until the legal age of 21. Some children in elementary or middle school are already using alcohol, so parents need to have a series of discussions with their child tailored to their child’s developmental stage. The younger a child is when they begin using alcohol, the more likely it is to lead to violence, other drug usage and the potential for alcoholism later.

Binge drinking is a big concern for many parents. Alcohol poisoning is a very real threat that can be fatal if someone consumes large enough quantities rapidly. Contrary to popular belief, binge drinking typically starts in high school rather than on college campuses. But, parents can make a huge difference. The number one reason cited by teens that choose not to drink is their parents. When parents talk to teens about drinking, the teens really do listen.

College students spend more on alcohol than they do on soft drinks, milk, juice, coffee and books combine. Investigate the college your child will attend and find out the local laws and campus alcohol policies. Consider visiting the campus on a Friday or Saturday night to observe the behavior of the students. Stay involved with your child and be aware of changes in grades, friends, or attitudes toward classes and studying. Even college students who choose not to drink may face challenges on campuses where drinking is heavy because of risks ranging from annoyances such as vandalism to the threat of increased violence.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence shared the following statistics:

  • There are more deaths and disabilities each year in the U.S. from substance abuse than from any other cause.
  • About 18 million Americans have alcohol problems; only 5-6 million Americans have drug problems.
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading cause of mental retardation.
  • Heavy drinking contributes to the top three causes of death: heart disease, cancer and stroke.
  • Drinking contributes significantly to other health problems.

In addition, alcohol plays a role in:

  • One quarter of all emergency room admissions.
  • One third of all suicides.
  • More than half of all homicides.
  • More than half of all incidents of domestic abuse.
  • Almost half of all traffic fatalities.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence provides extremely helpful information on their website, www.ncadd.org.
Dr. Brent Rotton is the chief of staff at Northeastern Health System.

Source: talhequad press


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