• The adolescent brain is more vulnerable to brain damage, toxins, alcohol, and addiction, because adult warning signals do not occur in the adolescent brain, and the adolescent brain is still growing and maturing. The adolescent continues to develop and change until the age of 25.  During that time alcohol can alter and change the brain’s ability to make safe and healthy choices, and damage their short-term memory.  (National Institute of Drug Abuse research)
  • Mixing alcohol and energy drinks.  Many teens and college students are mixing energy drinks with alcohol, leaving them at higher risk for injury and other alcohol-related consequences.  They can drink more and longer without feeling drunk.  They are still drunk, but don’t think they are.  
  • Young people drink for many reasons, such as to bond with their friends.  Girls may want to feel more comfortable around boys, and teens want to be like older people.    
  • Alcohol affects girls’ (and women’s) bodies differently than it affects boys (and men’s).  
  • Alcohol kills more kids than any other drug.  (U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011)  
  • Students who started drinking before the age of 14 are much more likely to be chemically dependent later on in life.  Binge drinking starts as early as middle school.  Many teens take their first drink at age 13. (40% of children who start drinking at age 14 or younger report having problems with chemical dependency, compared with 10% of those who wait until they turn 21, (the legal drinking age in Washington.)
  • 12-13 yr. olds are binge-drinking.  14% of 8th graders and 50% of high school seniors have been drunk. Half of the children between the ages of 12-20 are drinkers, buying 17% of all alcohol sold in the U.S.
  • MADD.  More than 2,700 kids died in alcohol-related crashes in 2008.  (MADD - Mothers Against Drunk Driving)
What You Can Do
  • Set an example.  
  • Parental drinking to handle stress, to be at ease socially, or to elevate mood is behavior that often is imitated by children.  Model the behaviors you expect from your children.  
  • Parent awareness and involvement are the most effective influence—they are critical.  Teens who learn about the risks of alcohol and drug use at home from their parents or caregivers, are much less likely to use drugs than those teens who do not receive those messages at home.   2/3 of teens who don’t use drugs, refrain because they fear that they will lose their parents’ respect and trust.  
  • What isn’t good for children usually isn’t good for adults.  Drinking alcohol as an adult also presents great risks—health, social, family, deadly DUI’s, alcoholism, violence, loss of family and employment, even jail/prison sentences. 

Talk, talk and talk some more.  
  • Talk with children as early as possible, and often about the effects and consequences of alcohol abuse.   Teach children that alcohol and drugs can impact every phase of their life, reduce their ability to learn, impact their health, family, friends and people they don’t even know.  Parents should not be blind or in denial regarding their children’s involvement in anything that would put them in harm’s way.”

Be aware, and be there.  
  • Teens who learn about the risks of alcohol use from their parents or caregivers are much less likely to use drugs or alcohol than those who do not receive those messages. Parental awareness and involvement is critical.  Two thirds of teens who don’t use drugs or alcohol, do so because they fear that they will lose their parents’ respect and trust.

Signs of teens who are drinking or abusing drugs:
    • Becoming withdrawn
    • Changing their set of friends
    • Changes in behavior
    • Poor attendance at school.

Take action.
    • Set rules
    • Talk openly with your kids.  
    • Know who their friends are, who they are with, and what they are doing.
    • Set values within the family and help them define value statements and their personal “code” of behavior.
    • Read the book Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide To The Adolescent Brain For Parents and Teens, by David Walsh, PhD.

Research and learn from others.  
  • Research and learn from the success of others. 
Example:  The community can help bring about changes in schools.  Palm Beach Co., Florida schools identified the kids who were most at risk, looking at the whole child (behavior, social, emotional and academic).  The school staff and parents worked together to reduce drug and alcohol use among teens. Teen drinking is a community problem.  Once parents were invited to participate, significant results occurred.  Ask for help from parents, clergy, school counselors and other county resources.  Ask school guidance counselors to speak honestly and openly to parents about the many issues facing students.  (Alison Adler, Chief Safety and Learning Environments Advisor)
  • Learn about the affect of food additives on children’s behavior.

Get support.  
  • Teen drinking is a community problem.  Ask for help from clergy, school counselors and other community resources, such as mayors, city council persons, law enforcement, etc.