Alcohol is used more than any other drug by American adolescents, including tobacco. According to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, about 10.8 million kids between ages 12 and 20 reported drinking alcohol in the month leading up to the survey, 7.2 million of which were binge drinkers and 2.4 million were heavy drinkers. The consequences of this can be severe and long lasting.
Immediate risks include:
- Academic Failure
- Assault: In a study of drinking in college students, it was found that around 700,000 students are assaulted by other students who have been drinking and about 100,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape
- Greater likelihood for other risky behavior, including using other drugs or unsafe sex
- Legal trouble
- Death: Annually, about 5,000 people under age 21 die from alcohol-related injuries. About 38 percent of those deaths involve car crashes from drunk driving. Thirty-two percent are from homicides, and about 6 percent result from suicides.
Long-term risks include:
- Greater likelihood of alcoholism later in life: Kids who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol problems than people who first started drinking at age 21 or older
- Altered brain development
- Increased risk for health issues like cancer, liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and hemorrhagic stroke.
The good news is that underage drinking is slowly declining. For instance, alcohol use among eighth graders has decreased by more than a third from its peak in 1996. While the progress for older age groups is slower, the pattern is still hopeful. It's declined by a sixth for tenth-graders since their peak, and a seventh for twelfth-graders. With work from parents, educators, and kids, these numbers can continue to go down.
For kids, there are steps to take to help prevent dangerous behavior like seeking out groups of friends who don't prioritize drinking as part of having fun, having a support system of trusted adults and planning ahead to protect you and your friends when you know you'll be in situations where alcohol is involved. But, if you've already found that alcohol has been a bigger and bigger part of your life, don't be afraid to reach out to an adult for help. Remember that you're not alone.
If you or someone you love has been struggling with alcohol abuse and are in need of help, reach out to Fairwinds Treatment Center. Since it was established 26 years ago by Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef, Fairwinds has risen to become one of the best alcohol treatment centers in the country. Pioneering a dual diagnosis approach that combines therapeutic counseling and clinical treatment, Dr. El-Yousef and the Fairwinds team can work with you or loved one to uncover and treat the background factors that may have prompted your addition in the first place, and help you return to a healthy and happy life.