Alcohol is cool!
People drink, it’s not a big deal.
Adults (my parents, siblings, coworkers, etc.) are drinking, so why shouldn’t I?
I only drink sometimes…
I only drink beer and wine.
Do you recognize some of these thoughts as yours? What do you think about drinking alcohol?
You’ve probably heard a lot about it from your friends, parents, favorite TV show, and on the internet. But that’s not enough when it comes to deciding what role alcohol should have in your life. It’s important to fully recognize its effects on your health and behavior. For that reason, we’re providing you with facts about underage drinking in this article, so you can decide to be healthy and happy.
Adolescent alcohol abuse in numbers
Drinking is illegal for youth under 21 in the United States. However, people aged 12-20 drink almost 20% of alcohol consumed in the United States and there are over 10.8 million underage drinkers! Further, when young people drink, they tend to drink heavily – underage drinkers consume on average four to five drinks per occasion about five times a month [2, 4].
Drinking too much and at too early an age, creates problems for teens, for the people around them, and for society as a whole.
Eight reasons why underage drinking is dangerous
The negative consequences of underage drinking include a range of physical, academic, and social problems [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].
- Underage drinking is the number one cause of death among youth under 21 years.
- Drinking causes many injuries – there are more than 150,000 emergency-room visits each year by youth under the age of 21 for alcohol-related injuries.
- Alcohol abuse can have serious consequences on your health. It damages the heart, liver, pancreas, and other organs and leads to numerous problems with them. It increases the risk of developing cancer and dementia.
- Drinking alcohol is particularly harmful to teen development because it can cause significant cognitive or learning problems and make the brain more prone to alcohol dependence. This is especially a risk when people start drinking young and drink heavily.
- Drinking may cause students to have trouble in school. For example, kids who drink are more likely to get poor grades and often have problems with social integration.
- Persons under the effect of alcohol are more likely to engage in risky behavior and illegal activities. Drinking makes it harder to keep your wits about you and to avoid or react appropriately in “dangerous” situations.
- Underage youth who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.
- People who start drinking in adolescence are at increased risk of having alcohol-related problems later in life.
Some people think that only drinking too much over a long period of time leads to these complications, but that’s not true. Sometimes drinking too much on a single occasion is enough to lead to serious consequences .
How to avoid drinking?
Okay, now you know reasons why you shouldn’t drink, but how to say no? Sometimes it’s not easy not to drink, especially at parties where your friends might pressure you to join them. There’s the fear that you might be left out. However, although you may feel pressure to drink, it’s your decision to drink or not. Make your choice and don’t let yourself be a victim of someone else’s behavior. Surround yourself with true friends. Would true friends make you do something that’s bad for you?
Here are some other ways to avoid drinking alcohol.
Think about how you want to respond and behave. It’ll raise your confidence. It would also be helpful to share your thoughts with someone you trust.
Say no and let the person know you mean it.
Say it firmly and don’t make a big deal about it. Try to stand up straight and make eye contact. Keep your response short, clear, and simple – no, thank you.
What should you do if the person persists?
If they’re pressuring you, repeat the same short response each time the person does this. If that doesn’t help, simply walk away.
Practice your “no”.
The first few times it may be difficult to say no. Because of that, try to imagine a situation where someone is offering you a drink. Think what that person might say and how you’d respond. Practice it out loud – for example, in front of a mirror. Another way is to ask someone you trust to role-play with you. That way you could experience real pressure and get feedback about your response.
Although there are many underage drinkers, remember most young people don’t drink alcohol and don’t support it. You are not alone in making this decision.
Why is this article written in April?
Did you know that April is Alcohol Awareness Month? Talk with your friends and family about drinking alcohol and its side effects. Help spread awareness. Also, Do you think that you or your friend has an alcohol problem? If that’s the case, don’t wait – get help. Reach out to a trusted adult!
 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (U.S.). (2011). Beyond hangovers: Understanding alcohol’s impact your health. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
 Sommers, A. R., & Sundararaman, R. (2010). Alcohol use among youth. In Underage Drinking: Examining and Preventing Youth Use of Alcohol(pp. 9-22). New York: Nova Science.
 Taite, R., & Schraff, C. (2016, September 16). Here’s Why Your Brain Makes Quitting Drugs/Alcohol So Hard. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201609/here-s-why-your-brain-makes-quitting-drugsalcohol-so-hard
 The Scope of the Problem. (2004). Alcohol Research & Health, 28(3), 111-120.
 Underage Drinking [Brochure]. (2017). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/UnderageDrinking/Underage_Fact.pdf
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