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Teenage Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is the most frequently used drug by teenagers in the United States. About half of junior high and senior high school students drink alcohol on a monthly basis, and 14% of teens have been intoxicated at least once in the past year. Nearly 8% of teens who drink say they drink at least five or more alcoholic drinks in a row (binge drink).

According to research undertaken by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), teens who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop teenage alcohol abuse dependency than those who begin drinking at 21 years of age.

Most teens don't start drinking alcohol expecting to develop a teenage alcohol abuse problem. While most teens probably see alcohol use as a casual way to have fun, there are negative effects that result from teenage alcohol abuse. The biggest consequence to teenage alcohol abuse is loss of life.

Each year, approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of teenage alcohol abuse; this includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 as a result of homicides, 300 from suicide, as well as hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, drowning and alcohol poisoning.

Aside from the fact that underage drinking is illegal, it poses a high risk to both the individual and society.  Here are the most common teenage alcohol abuse effects and consequences:

Teenage alcohol abuse and drunk driving:
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 20.  The rate of fatal crashes among alcohol-involved drivers between 16 and 20 years old is more than twice the rate for alcohol-involved drivers 21 and older.

Teenage alcohol abuse and suicide:
Alcohol use interacts with conditions such as depression and stress to contribute to teen suicide, the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 14 and 25.  In one study, 37 percent of eighth grade females who drank heavily reported attempting suicide, compared with 11 percent who did not drink.

Teenage alcohol abuse and sexual assaults:
Sexual assault, including rape, occurs most commonly among women in late adolescence and early adulthood, usually within the context of a date.  In one survey, approximately 10 percent of female high school students reported having been raped.  Research suggests that alcohol use by the offender, the victim or both, increase the likelihood of sexual assault by a male acquaintance.

Teenage alcohol abuse and high-risk sex:
Research has associated teenage alcohol abuse with high-risk sex, for instance, multiple partners or unprotected sex.  The consequences of high-risk sex also are common in this age group, particularly unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.  According to a recent study, the link between high-risk sex and drinking is affected by the quantity of alcohol consumed.  The probability of sexual intercourse is increased by drinking amounts of alcohol sufficient to impair judgment, but decreased by drinking heavier amounts that result in feelings of nausea, passing out, or mental confusion.

Teenage alcohol abuse and binge drinking:
Though most college drinkers would deny it, young people do die solely from drinking.  In 1995, 318 people ages 15 to 24 died from alcohol poisoning alone, many of them after a night binge drinking at college.  At the University of Virginia, a tradition that has seniors drinking a fifth of hard liquor at the final game of the football season (so-called “Fourth-year Fifth”) has killed 18 students since 1990.

Teenage alcohol abuse prevention

You can't eliminate your teenager's curiosity about alcohol; you can't shield your teen from the social pressures drink alcohol. Keeping silent and letting your teen come to his or her own conclusions about alcohol would be considered passive. You can, however, encourage your teen's self-worth, give them the hard facts, establish firm limits, set a positive example, and always keep the lines of "communication without condemnation" open. Teen's who feel good about themselves are much less likely to turn to alcohol abuse.

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