Here’s one alcohol fact we are happy to see: Florida teens are drinking less. According to the 2014 Youth Substance Abuse Survey, past-month alcohol use decreased 10.2 percentage points in middle schoolers and 13.6 percentage points among high schoolers since 2004.
This good news is that there is solid evidence that the efforts of parents, schools and communities to prevent underage drinking are helping kids be safer and make wiser choices. However, this finding doesn’t mean we can back off those efforts. The same survey found that 1 in 5 high schoolers had reported blacking out from drinking, and another 20 percent had been in the car with an impaired driver. Here are more alcohol facts that parents should know:
Teen Alcohol Use
Statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) show that by age 12, 5.1 percent of kids will have consumed a full drink of alcohol. That number jumps to 33.1 percent for age 15 and 60.1 percent by age 18. Also, nearly a quarter of 17-year-olds have had a drink in the past month.
Underage Drunk Driving
In 2013, 29 percent of underage drivers killed in car accidents nationwide had at least a drop of alcohol in their system, and in 405 of the 492 accidents, the driver was above the legal BAC limit of 0.08 percent. Another 371 fatal accidents involved underage drivers who had been drinking, survived, but killed a passenger or occupants of another vehicle.
What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is defined as consuming more than five alcoholic drinks for males, four for females, on one occasion (for example, a 17-year-old boy drinking five beers at a party). According to SAMHSA, 1.4 million adolescents ages 12-17 had binged in the month before the 2015 national survey was conducted. Another 221,000 adolescents were classified as heavy drinkers—defined as someone who has binged five or more days over a 30-day period.
Alcohol Use and Risk of Death
Between 2006-2010, an average of 4,358 underage drinkers died every year. Though about a third of these deaths were from motor vehicle accidents, an average of 1,269 were homicide-related, 245 were from non-violent causes such as alcohol poisonings or drownings, and 492 were suicides.
Alcohol Use and Sexual Assault
Statistics on sexual assaults are difficult to pin down because so many incidents go unreported. However, researchers estimate that each year, almost 100,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. Sources also agree that young women have a higher risk of rape while drunk or drugged.
If your teens may seem predisposed to making bad decisions, it’s not just because they are intentionally trying to drive you crazy—the human brain doesn’t fully develop until at least age 25. Adding alcohol into the mix can derail this development; research has shown that binge drinking can damage nerve tissue in teenagers.
Early Use & Future Alcoholism
A 2013 study discovered that kids who start drinking between ages 11-14 are more likely to become alcoholics as an adult. The research found that there was a 16 percent chance these young drinkers develop that dependency 10 years later, whereas only 1 percent of 19-year-olds who start drinking become alcoholics within a decade.
What Can You Do
These alcohol facts may not give parents the most optimism about protecting their kids from the dangers of underage drinking, but as already stated, underage drinking prevention initiatives have made an impact. Here are some things you can do to help keep your teens safe:
- Clear parental disapproval: Research has shown that parents who clearly and firmly state the dangers of alcohol to their teens are an effective influence on those kids choosing not to drink. Don’t mince words when expressing your disapproval, and set non-negotiable rules about drinking.
- Keep lines of communication open: As much as teens don’t want to admit it, you are the most important source of information in their lives—and this is the age where they need your guidance and support the most. When they ask questions about drinking, offer honest, blunt answers. Healthy communication not only delivers your expectations and concerns, but also helps foster trust so that kids will come to you when they have a problem.
- Work with other parents: Surely, you aren’t the only parent in your community concerned with underage drinking. Work with other families—especially the families of your kids’ friends—to keep them safe. If your child says he or she is going to a party of a classmate, don’t hesitate to call the parents of that classmate to get more information on supervision and if alcohol will be present. Just the knowledge that you will follow up with other parents can prevent your kids from trying to sneak a party past you.
- Family meals: This remains one of our favorite facts—families who eat meals together communicate better, which in turn leads to less alcohol use and other risky behaviors by the kids. Family meals are not just about eating together, but also communicating and building trust. Even 10 minutes in the morning drinking a cup of coffee or eating breakfast with your teens before they leave the house for school can produce positive effects.
Which of these alcohol facts hit home for you?