The trouble with alcohol...
Look around you. Most teens aren’t drinking alcohol. That’s the good news. But more teens drink than smoke or use drugs. Drinking too soon or too much can affect your mood and thinking. It can hurt other people, get you in legal trouble and damage your relationships. It can harm your body now and in the future. It can get you addicted. And get this: Most adults addicted to alcohol report they starting drinking during their teenage years. Read on to get some information and help.
Myths and truths about alcohol:
- Myth: Everyone drinks.
- Truth: Not true. Although 18% of Marshalltown teens said they’ve drank alcohol in the past month, that still leaves 82% who did not! If you choose not to drink, you’re definitely not alone! Learn about the misperception of drinking.
- Myth: Alcohol gives you energy.
- Truth: Alcohol is a depressant and can actually make you sleepy. It slows down your motor skills which control the way you think, speak, move and react.
- Myth: Everyone who gets drunk acts the same.
- Truth: No! There are lots of factors that affect the body’s reaction to alcohol, including weight, age, gender, body chemistry, genetics, amount of food and alcohol consumed - the list can go on. The way one person reacts can be vastly different from how another person reacts. You can’t predict how alcohol will affect you. See how alcohol affects a driver.
- Myth: Talk to me about drugs - that’s a bigger issue than alcohol.
- Truth: Both drugs and alcohol are serious problems among teens. Alcohol kills young people just like cocaine, heroin and other serious illegal drugs. Alcohol is a drug.
- Myth: Alcohol isn’t harmful to my body.
- Truth: Large amounts of alcohol can take its toll on your body, causing disturbed sleep, nausea and vomiting as well as a dreaded hangover. Heavy drinking can inhibit the firing of nerve cells that control breathing, a condition known as respiratory depression - a condition that can be fatal.
- Myth: My parents drink - so what’s the big deal if I do?
- Truth: It’s scientifically proven to be a big deal. Teens who drink may be at greater risk than previously thought. Research shows that the brain is not fully formed until age 24. Using alcohol during this important time as your brain develops might have negative long-term effects on brain functions such as memory. Also, it’s against the law to drink under the age of 21.
For more myths and truths about alcohol go to: www.checkyourself.org/AlcoholMyths.aspx
Not all teens drink alcohol. Unfortunately, many teens misperceive the habits of their peers and then model their own behavior based on those misperceptions. Many teens assume their friends are drinking more often and consuming more alcohol at parties than they actually are. This is because heavy drinkers are typically the ones who get noticed most at parties and talked about later. These misperceptions can actually fuel problem behavior and teens will drink at higher levels because they incorrectly perceive that such behavior conforms to that of their peers. Don’t get caught up in misperceptions!
Why shouldn’t I drink?
- You can look really stupid. The impression is that drinking is cool, but the nervous system changes that come from drinking alcohol can make people do stupid or embarrassing things, like throwing up or peeing on themselves. Drinking also gives people bad breath, and no one enjoys a hangover.
- Alcohol puts your health at risk. Teens who drink are more likely to be sexually active and to have unsafe, unprotected sex. Resulting pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases can change - or even end - lives. The risk of injuring yourself, maybe even fatally, is higher when you're under the influence, too. One half of all drowning deaths among teen guys are related to alcohol use. Use of alcohol greatly increases the chance that a teen will be involved in a car crash, homicide, or suicide. See how drinking affects a driver.
Teen drinkers are more likely to be overweight or have other health problems, too. One study by the University of Washington found that people who regularly had five or more drinks in a row starting at age 13 were much more likely to be overweight or have high blood pressure by age 24 than their nondrinking peers. People who continue drinking heavily well into adulthood risk damaging their organs, such as the liver, heart, and brain. Read about the brain on alcohol.
- School problems. People who drink regularly also often have problems with school. Drinking can damage a student's ability to study well and get decent grades, as well as affect sports performance (the coordination thing).
- The punishment is severe. Teens who drink put themselves at risk for obvious problems with the law (it's illegal; you can get arrested). Teens who drink are also more likely to get into fights and commit crimes than those who don't. Before you risk it - Know about the laws regarding underage drinking
Ways to say no to drinking:
- No thanks.
- I’m not into drinking.
- I have a game tomorrow.
- I know someone who died from drinking and I don’t want to do it.
- My parents are coming to pick me up soon.
- I already got in major trouble for drinking once, I can't do it again, or my coach would kill me.
- I don’t feel like it - do you have any soda?
- Alcohol’s not my thing.
- Are you talking to me? Forget it!
- I’ve tried it before and I don’t like the taste.
- Check out www.thecoolspot.org - the young teen’s place for resisting alcohol and peer pressure
Get information, help, your questions answered at www.abovetheinfluence.com
Preventing underage alcohol use
As kids grow older, the chance that they will use alcohol also grows. Approximately 10% of 12-year-olds say they have used alcohol at least once. By age 13, that number doubles. By age 15, approximately 50% have had at least one drink. Teens encounter many pressures on a daily basis, many of which come from school, friends and the media. It's easy for them to engage in risky behaviors as a way to escape from these mounting pressures or to simply fit in with their peers. Teens say they rely on adults in their lives more than anyone else to help them make tough decisions and to provide good advice. Read on to get information every parent should know…
There's good news about Marshalltown youth and drinking alcohol from the Iowa Youth Survey!
- Binge drinking has decreased 24% for Marshalltown 11th graders and 7% for 8th graders.
- 82% of Marshalltown youth said they have better things to do than drink alcohol.
- 84% of Marshalltown 11th graders, 88% of 8th graders and 91% of 6th graders said their family has clear rules about alcohol and drug use.
Alcohol still remains the number #1 drug of choice for Marshalltown youth and that raises many concerns. Teens drink less often than adults. But when they do drink, they drink more than adults.
More facts from the Iowa Youth Survey about Marshalltown youth:
- 60% of 11th Marshalltown graders said the most common source of alcohol is from an older friend or relative who buys it. 39% of 8th graders said an older friend or relative and 27% said they take it from home without permission. 27% of 6th graders said the most common source is that they take it from home without permission.
- 52% of Marshalltown 11th graders said in the past 30 days, they haven't been with kids under 21 who were drinking alcohol. 70% of 8th graders said that and 83% of 6th graders said that.
- 74% of Marshalltown 11th graders said their parents/guardians would think it was very wrong if they went to a party where kids under age 21 were using alcohol. 84% of 8th graders and 92% of 6th graders said their parents/guardians think it would be very wrong.
Parents are the anti-drug!
All kids are at risk of making bad choices. It is our responsibility as parents and community members to ensure they don't make bad choices. It's important to start talking early and keep talking about underage drinking. Parents' influence can override most negative pressures. They will listen to you if you openly communicate your expectations and consequences for participating in risky behaviors. Most teens don't fully understand the risks involved with drinking alcohol and the damage it can do to a person's mind and body. Talk to your kids about alcohol.
Helping kids steer clear of alcohol involves not only warning them of the dangers, but also getting at the heart of asset-building to help them feel safe, supported and free to talk about whatever is on their minds. It involves building a strong relationship with them early and nurturing their personal values and skills to help them make smart decision.
Things parents and adults can do everyday:
- Monitor - keep track of where your teens go and whom they're with. If they go to a party, check in advance whether or not an adult will be actively present and whether alcohol will be available. The most frequent reason adolescents begin to drink is peer pressure. Read more about hosting teen parties or if your teen is attending one. Read about Marshalltown's new Social Host Ordinance.
- Keep your child involved - Being active in youth clubs, school activities, religious activities and other caring environments with adult role models offers important reinforcements for your positive messages at home.
- Have a plan - As your teen gains more independence, negotiate a plan for what you'll do if he or she is in a difficult alcohol-related situation. Make safety a top priority. Take the pledge with your child.
- Set consequences - Be clear about any consequences of underage drinking before there's a problem. However, do not make the consequences so serious that your teen won't ask for help if they are in serious trouble or need a safe ride home. See how drinking alcohol affects the driver.
Not all teens drink alcohol. Unfortunately, many teens misperceive the habits of their peers and then model their own behavior based on those misperceptions. Many teens assume their friends are drinking more often and consuming more alcohol at parties than they actually are. This is because heavy drinkers are typically the ones who get noticed most at parties and talked about later. These misperceptions can actually fuel problem behavior and teens will drink at higher levels because they incorrectly perceive that such behavior conforms to that of their peers.
Resources for parents:
- State and local laws about underage drinking
- Social Host Ordinance