Alcohol Abuse Among Teenagers
The teen years are a prime time for experimentation and the potential for substantial involvement in alcohol consumption. In fact, studies show that most teens try their first drink of alcohol by the time they are 15 and that more than 30% of teens have at least tried drinking by the time they are 16. The level of alcohol abuse among teenagers has increased over the past 10 years to more than 70% of all teens having tried alcohol and more than 21% of teens abusing alcohol regularly.
Why Do Teens Abuse Alcohol?
Regardless of the age at which a teen starts drinking, it seems that the primary reasons why teens abuse alcohol tend to be the same—they are:
- A fear of peer rejection
- A fear of being made fun of if they don’t drink when their friends or peers offer the alcohol to them
- Not wanting to lose a friend over the decision not to drink
- A desire to appear more grown up or older than they are
- A desire to appear in control of a situation (even if they may not be)
- Having an unclear picture of what the alcohol may do
- Being unclear as to what they really want
- Curiosity or the desire to know what it is like to get drunk
- Peer pressure from friends, school mates, or others
- A desire to be accepted by others
- Risk-taking to feel “cool” or be part of the “in-crowd”
- Thrill-seeking to “have fun”
Studies have found that more teens abuse alcohol and other substances during the summer months than any other time of the year. This is followed closely by the holiday season during which most teens have an extended Christmas break and then closely behind, Spring Break causes much concern. Alcohol abuse during these times of year is prompted by boredom, a lack of parental guidance and interaction, and teens simply having too much time on their hands.
How Can Parents Prevent Alcohol Abuse Among Teenagers?
Parents have the difficult challenge of finding ways to keep their kids safe. Preventing alcohol abuse among a teenager can be a difficult process—after all, you cannot follow a teen around everywhere he or she goes to make sure that they don’t drink—so what is a parent to do?
Parents can take a proactive stance on preventing alcohol abuse by:
- Not keeping alcohol in the home where teens can get ahold of it
- Not drinking around the teen and portraying an instance in which it’s safe and “ok” to drink
- Not allowing teens to attend parties where parents are not also going to be there
- Not allowing teens to attend settings in which the adults at the party or setting have not been previously met
- Keeping teens occupied in other activities that will take up their time such as sports, family outings or events
- Educating the teen about the dangers and consequences of alcohol abuse