There is a looming public health crisis that we need to urgently discuss and it is “the health and social consequences caused by the harmful use of alcohol”. This crisis is occurring across all age groups. The issue of underage drinking is heartbreaking and it is important for parents, care-givers and teachers to understand the effects and consequences when pre-teens and teenagers start the habit of drinking alcoholic beverages at such an early age.
Kids who are exposed to drinking in the home are at higher risk of underage drinking. Then there is the tremendous peer pressure in schools and at social events to drink alcoholic beverages. For some kids they want to appear to be cool to gain acceptance by their peers or they enjoy the fleeting stimulant effects alcohol has on bolstering their courage and boldness.
Here are the facts
- 35% drank some amount of alcohol with 21% engaging in binge drinking
- 10% drove after drinking alcohol and 22% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
We also know that teenagers who drink alcohol are at risk of experiencing:
- Interpersonal conflicts at home, school and in the community
- Arrests from drunk driving or driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI)
- Medical issues such as gastro-intestinal problems and even alcohol poisoning
- Severe cases of alcohol poisoning which can result in death
- Violence and injuries including sexual assault where they are either the victim or perpetrators
- Unplanned pregnancy and STDs
- Interruption of their education
Signs that your child may be drinking
Please pay attention and take action if you have observed:
- Marked changes in your child’s mood
- Behavior issues
- Strong smell of alcohol and or vomitus
- Unusual drowsiness
- Slurred and incoherent speech
- Red or glazed eyes
The conversation must begin at home
- Engage your teen in conversation about school
- Explore whether your child could be experiencing peer pressure or is being bullied
- Know the early signs of depression
- Role play with your youngsters what to say or do if he or she is coming under pressure to drink
- Share information on the damaging consequences of underage drinking
- Encourage your children to form wholesome healthy relationships and participate in group activities
Where to get help
You may not be equipped to deal with the discovery that your kid is an underage drinker. Find a counselor or family doctor who is trained to offer specialized therapy. Helping a kid overcome alcohol dependency requires the support and care of family, peers and indeed the society.
Prevention is obviously the route to take to avoid all the anti-social issues which are associated with underage drinking. Stronger legislations will help to restrict the sale of alcohol to minors but what happens in our homes could be facilitating a child’s access to alcoholic beverages.
It is never too early or late to have the conversation about the dangers of underage drinking. Have that discussion today.
Hello_docja, Readers Bureau, Contributor
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