For some parents, the thought of their child drinking is preposterous. However, it turns out that young people aged 12 to 20 drink 11% of the alcohol consumed in the country.
Adolescents often have to deal with peer pressure and feel they need to drink to fit in. If allowed to get out of control, a teenager may fall victim to the many dangers of underage drinking.
Unfortunately, these dangers can go far beyond a night in jail. In fact, there are many serious risks of underage drinking that could potentially affect a young person’s immediate and long-term future.
If you suspect a loved one is engaging in underage drinking, you shouldn’t take it lightly. Let’s go over some of the potential side-effects.
Drinking impairs a person’s judgment, and for young people who aren’t used to drinking, the effects of alcohol are much stronger. Many times this is due to having a lower body weight than adult drinkers.
Even minor impairment could lead to serious accidents that could harm the underage drinker and those around them. One of the most dangerous, and unfortunately most common, is an auto accident.
Many young people feel they’re invincible while drinking, causing them to get behind the wheel. Due to the impaired coordination alcohol causes, this could lead to a severe crash and the potential for injury or even death.
Other accidents could occur such as falls or drowning. In some cases, an underage drinker may unknowingly put themselves in a vulnerable position and end up getting injured. They also may be more prone to engage in fighting, which could end in injury or arrest.
Early Alcohol Dependence
Forming a dependence on alcohol is usually associated with adulthood. However, it can happen to young people too.
Many people start drinking at a young age to avoid problems at home or school. In more serious cases, a young person may start to hide their drinking.
Some teenagers will turn to alcohol as a remedy for low self-esteem or social anxiety. Regardless of the reason, this could quickly get out of hand.
A young person may start to feel like they need alcohol to function properly. They may also begin to show signs of withdrawal if they don’t drink.
This means they’ve formed a dependence and need to seek help right away. If you feel this is happening to a loved one, it’s time to intervene.
Binge drinking is often a problem with younger drinkers. This behavior involves drinking copious amounts in a short period. Four drinks for a woman and five for a man in two hours constitutes binge drinking.
Doing this could result in several things including sickness, blacking out, and memory loss. However, at its most extreme, binge drinking could result in alcohol poisoning.
Some of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning are shallow breathing, vomiting, and unconsciousness. It can even be life-threatening.
Because teenagers aren’t experienced drinkers, they often don’t know their limit and fall victim to alcohol poisoning. This is why it’s prevalent in fraternities and sororities, where many teens are forced to drink as a rite of passage.
Aside from the potential for alcohol poisoning, binge drinking can also lead to dependence.
One of the more dangerous risks of underage drinking is the long-term, physical side effects that can occur. Unfortunately, when it comes to these side-effects teenagers are more at risk than adults.
Underage drinkers get drunk quicker, and with less alcohol than adults require. This is because the prefrontal cortex of their brains is not fully developed.
This part of the brain helps with the decision-making process and controls impulses. Too much drinking at an early age could potentially damage this area of the brain.
If not addressed soon, the effects of underage drinking could carry into adulthood. A person may eventually develop pancreatitis, liver damage or cirrhosis.
Drinking could also lead to high blood pressure as an adult and cause several nutritional problems.
We discussed drunk driving and the potential for harmful accidents. But there are also some serious problems an underage drinker could get into as a result of risky and irresponsible behavior.
Excess drinking could lead to a teenager committing crimes, fighting, or acting out in public. This often leads to arrest and jail time.
Some teens may also start abusing other drugs while intoxicated. This could lead to dependency issues with other drugs, or even worse, overdose.
Underage drinkers may start missing school, skipping out on work and engaging in risky sexual behavior. The more they drink, the worse this behavior could become.
If you notice a loved one falling behind in school or frequently getting into trouble, they may have formed an alcohol problem.
If a teenager is drinking, it could start to affect the family dynamic negatively. They may start to withdraw and can even show signs of anger towards family members who are trying to help them.
Also, if an underage drinker starts getting into legal trouble, the stress could hurt the whole family. There could be an added financial strain that could easily create tension in the home.
If this is happening, it’s important to remember that the health of the person in trouble is your top priority. The family may need to look into rehab options and even try family therapy.
Understanding the Risks of Underage Drinking
Having an underage drinker in your family can be stress-inducing and even frightening. However, by familiarizing yourself with the risks of underage drinking, you may be able to pinpoint to warning signs.
If you think a loved one has a drinking problem, it’s important you remain supportive. Seeking help from professionals right away could put an end to a dangerous situation.
For more information on addiction and recovery, check out our blog today.