Consequences of Teen Drinking and How to Prevent Them
The use of alcohol by teens is nothing new. It has been something that has become such an ingrained part of our culture as to become nearly invisible. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that more adolescents use alcohol than either tobacco or marijuana, and more than 8 million kids admit to drinking alcohol in the last year. That figure, alone, is staggering. Additionally, each year approximately 5,000 kids die as a result of underage drinking. As if these statistics alone were not enough to cause alarm, consider that nearly 20% of all fatalities in alcohol related vehicle crashes are the result of teen drinking. However, the worst part is that there is a whole host of short and long term consequences of teen drinking, as well.
Short Term Consequences
Almost everyone that has ever had a little too much to drink is very familiar with the short term consequences of drinking. These consequences are even more pronounced in teens. Short term consequences of teen drinking are:
- Impaired judgement, which may result in unsafe sex, pregnancy, injury, and death
- Blackouts, which can result in rape or accidental injury of the drinker or someone else
- Damage to the brain, liver, kidneys, pancreas, and heart
- Social problems and labels
- Legal problems, including DUI
- Problems with school or jobs
- Loss of self-esteem and self-respect
All of these consequences can add up to a poorly adjusted teen, which will only continue to drink in order to avoid these ever-escalating problems. Which, in turn, leads to even more dire consequences.
Long Term Consequences
In addition to the short term consequences of teen drinking, there are a number of long term consequences, as well. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, long term consequences include:
- Alcohol addiction
- Impaired brain function and alcohol related mental illnesses
- Kidney, liver, and pancreas damage, possibly resulting in chronic illnesses and early death
- Financial problems, such as loss of a job, home, or vehicle
- Relationship problems
- Legal problems
No one wants our youth to have to deal with these consequences. Neither the short term nor the long term. So, how do you prevent the consequences of teen drinking?
Underage Drinking Prevention
The only way to prevent the consequences of teen drinking is to prevent teen drinking. And, according to the United States Surgeon General, preventing teen drinking is everyone’s responsibility. The best methods of preventing teen drinking are:
- Educating teens on alcohol and its dangers
- Knowing where teens are, who they are with, and what they are doing
- Talking to teens to help them work through problems or pressures that are driving them to drink
- Being a good role model for teens, and showing them how a responsible adult should behave
Of course, if a teen has already started down the path of alcohol abuse there is little that these things can do to stop it. However, there is help available. There are medical and counseling options, as well as 12 step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, which has shown to be especially effective with teens. It is never too late to seek treatment for alcohol abuse, and starting early is shown to have far better results.