With a heavy focus being placed on the opioid epidemic, it is important that we don’t forget about or disregard the other substances that impact the health and wellbeing of our youth. One such substance is alcohol. The National Institute on Drug Abuse funds an annual Monitoring the Future Survey that measures drug and alcohol use and views in our 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, and last year’s results were shocking.
The survey included 43,703 students from 360 public and private schools across the country. What the survey found is that for the first time in decades, binge drinking rates of teens has steadied instead of declined. The good news is that binge drinking rates are still significantly lower than peak years, however it is a reminder that we must continue educating our youth on the risks of underage alcohol use.
Underage alcohol use can lead can lead to a number of negative consequences and side effects. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 4,358 deaths per year can be attributed to underage drinking. Risks include motor vehicle crashes, alcohol poisoning, and suicide. In addition we know that alcohol impairs judgement and coordination, increases risk of physical and sex assault, and impairs brain development in our youth.
As a parent, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, recommends you do the following to decrease chances of underage drinking:
- Talk about the dangers of underage alcohol use.
- Serve as a role model for your children.
- Don’t make alcohol available for your children.
- Get to know your children’s friends.
- Have regular and open conversations about life in general.
- Connect with the other parents about sending clear messages about alcohol use.
- Supervise all parties.
- Encourage your child to participate in other activities to keep themselves busy and engaged.
Some signs that your child may be using alcohol include sudden changes in mood, academic and behavioral problems, rebelliousness, slurred speech and coordination, sudden change in friends, or less of an interest in activities that they used to enjoy. If you would like more information on underage alcohol use please click here.