When it comes to underage drinking, teens may not perceive the danger and harm that it can cause. This is especially true if they do not consider themselves to be drinking all the time. “Only at parties“, “only when I’m with my friends“, or “only when I’m stressed/sad/bored” may seem harmless since it’s not every day–they don’t consider themselves to be dependent on drinking or needing a drinking to function day-to-day. But at some point, these “only’s” can become too much.
When it comes to youth, most times when they are drinking alcohol they binge drink. The official definition of binge drinking is “drinking so much within about 2 hrs that one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels reach 0.08 g/dL [1,2]”. For youth, this only has to be about 3 or fewer alcoholic standard drinks.
However, these couple of drinks in a couple of hours on a few occasions can quickly turn into a larger problem. If a teen repeatedly binge drinks, especially when consuming large amounts that exceed that 3 drink maximum for youth’s bodies, a dependence can quickly occur. They can potentially build a tolerance and would have to consume more alcohol to reach that same intoxicated feeling. This means that the body and brain are used to the alcohol; however, it also means that once they stop consuming this amount of alcohol, they can experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Now, a person has to keep drinking to somewhat function–this is excessive drinking… this is dependence. And because youth’s bodies and brains are still growing and changing, this dependence can stunt healthy development.
Disruption of healthy brain development can lead to an increase in:
- Memory lapses → Short-term memory loss or Dementia
- Persistent brain damage
- Neurological complications and Nerve Damage
- Numbness and pain in your hands and feet
- Disordered thinking [3,4]
Other health effects of excessive alcohol consumption include:
- Liver disease
- Digestive problems
- Weakened immune system
- Bone damage (including bone marrow where blood cells are made)
- Heart problems
- Increased risk of cancer
All of these in which can affect success in school, extracurricular activities, daily life, and other things. So the next time you talk with your teen about the dangers of underage drinking, encourage them to not even engage in the behavior, even if it may be for that one time. Express your disapproval for underage drinking, and help them to develop strategies and skills to resist peer pressure situations. Be sure to bring up the point that even a few can quickly become too much.
- American Addiction Centers. (2017, August 29). Alcoholism. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from Alcohol.org website: https://www.alcohol.org/alcoholism/
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2017, February). Underage Drinking. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/UnderageDrinking/UnderageFact.htm
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2004, October). Alcohol Alert. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, July 11). Alcohol Use Disorder. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from Mayo Clinic website: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243
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