Underage drinking big risk to adolescents

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

ACHIEVING RECOVERY TOGETHER

As children mature, it is natural for them to assert their independence, seek new challenges, and try taking risks. Underage drinking is a risk that attracts many adolescents. They may want to try alcohol, but often do not fully recognize its effects on their health and behavior. Other reasons young people drink alcohol include peer pressure, increased independence (or the desire for it) and stress.

Many youth have easy access to alcohol. In 2019, among 12- to 14-year-olds who reported that they drank alcohol in the past month, 96.5 percent reported that they got it for free the last time they drank. In many cases, adolescents have access to alcohol through family members or find it at home.

Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are at a higher risk for developing alcohol use disorder later in life. For example, adults ages 26 and older who began drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to report having alcohol use disorder in the past year as those who waited until age 21 or later to begin drinking.

Young people’s brains keep developing well into their 20s. Alcohol alters this development, potentially affecting both brain structure and function. This may cause cognitive or learning problems and/or increase vulnerability for alcohol use disorder, especially when people start drinking at a young age and drink heavily.

Discussing drinking with your child can be tough, especially with adolescents. Laying out clear rules, building healthy behaviors, and encouraging healthy friendships will pave the way to success. Modeling a healthy lifestyle will also help. Here are some dos and don’ts

– Don’t communicate that alcohol is a good way to handle problems.

– Do let your child see healthy ways of coping such as exercise, music or talking with friends and family.

– Don’t center alcohol as a way to be cool, funny, glamorous or popular.

– Do encourage qualities in friends that really count, such as trustworthiness and kindness.

– Don’t simply tell them not to drink and leave them to figure it out on their own.

– Do find activities that hold their interest and engage their needs.

– Don’t pretend peer pressure doesn’t exist.

– Do empower them to be assertive and stand up for themselves.

– Finally, don’t put off getting help for you family. Do seek treatment for your child or yourself. Young people with alcohol use disorder and their families have a variety of options. Please reach out to Achieving Recovery Together. We’ll walk alongside you on your recovery journey.

Achieving Recovery Together (ART) is a recovery community organization located at 37 S. Main St., Winchester, KY. Call their recovery hotline at 859-385-5017 anytime for peer support. www.AchievingRecoveryTogether.org