One of the most difficult aspects of being a parent during the teens years is knowing what to do and say about underage drinking. Here are five key facts and links to resources that can provide important information to help parents prepare for and navigate this difficult time in a teen's life.
1. Understanding how the teen brain develops from ages 12 - early 20s can help parents better understand why teens take risks, including drinking alcohol, and do some of the crazy things they do. For more information on the developing teen brain, visit "A Parent's Guide to the Teen Brain," The Partnership at DrugFree.org, http://teenbrain.drugfree.org/
2. The teen brain is not the brain of an adult so alcohol affects the teen brain differently. In fact, early use is the most significant risk factor (the other four are genetics, childhood trauma, mental illness and social environment) contributing to a person developing alcohol dependence. NIAAA reports that nearly have of alcoholics were addicted to (dependent on) alcohol by age 21 and 2/3s by 25. For more information on this and other statistics, visit “Statistical Snapshot of Underage Drinking,” NIAAA, http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/AboutNIAAA/NIAAASponsoredPrograms/Pages/StatisticalSnapshotUnderageDrinking.aspx
3. Alcohol abuse (which is not alcoholism) causes chemical and structural changes in the brain. Alcoholism is one of the brain diseases of addiction and causes functional changes in the brain, as well. Young adults, ages 18-20, have the highest ate of alcohol dependence (alcoholism) in the United States. (U.S. Surgeon Genera’s 2007 Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking) For more information on Alcoholism/Addiction, visit "The Addiction Project," produced by HBO in partnership with NIAAA, NIDA & the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, http://hbo.com/addiction
4. Often parents are not aware of “low-risk” drinking limits, themselves, which can be problematic for teens who see parents abusing alcohol and assume that kind of alcohol consumption is “normal.” To understand various drinking patterns, visit “NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking” website, http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/
5. The Europeans do not have underage drinking figured out either – lowering the drinking age does NOT solve the problem. For more information, visit “U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking,” http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/underagedrinking/
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