Kids who drink are more likely to be involved in alcohol-related traffic crashes, to be victims of violent crimes and to have serious school-related problems. But maybe most importantly, drinking before 21 can permanently change the structure and function of your teen’s brain.
Great job. You’ve decided to talk, and that’s often the hardest part. The next step is to think about underage drinking as an ongoing conversation. That way you don’t have to worry about being perfect or covering everything all at once.
- Start by asking your teen’s opinion. Let your teen share what she thinks about alcohol. Let her know this is a safe environment – that she can be honest with no judgement.
- Share your knowledge. Talk about any family history of alcohol abuse and, depending on your comfort level, share your own experiences with alcohol.
- Talk about risks. There are many health and legal consequences your child could face, including long-term brain changes and charges for underage drinking. Here are more useful facts you can reference.
- Set expectations. Make it clear what you expect from your child and discuss what that means.
- Help them say no. Talk about ways to handle peer pressure and different things your teen could say to turn down alcohol.
- Set consequences for underage drinking. Be clear about what will happen if your child chooses to drink.
Want more tips?
Big transitions are the times when teens need the most support. There is a strong link between stress and alcohol use. Teens are likely to experience new stress during big milestones, such as graduating from middle school to high school, or family transitions such as a moving or divorce. Extra support during these times is crucial to helping curb alcohol use.
Teens who have an honest, loving relationship with their parents are less likely to drink. Simply spending 15 minutes a day doing something your child likes can create a strong parent-child relationship. This can trigger healthy development during adolescence and lower your teen’s risk of alcohol problems today, and as they become adults.
5 ways to help your teen:
- Be in it together. Your support will help your teen build the self-esteem he or she needs to stand up to peer pressure — and live up to your expectations.
- Know your teen's activities. Pay attention to your teen's plans and whereabouts. Encourage participation in supervised after-school and weekend activities.
- Establish rules and consequences. Rules might include no underage drinking, leaving parties where alcohol is served and not riding in a car with a driver who's been drinking. Agree on the consequences of breaking the rules ahead of time — and enforce them consistently.
- Set an example. If you drink, do so only in moderation and explain to your teen why it's okay for adults to drink responsibly. Describe the rules you follow, such as not drinking and driving. Don't serve alcohol to anyone who's underage.
- Encourage healthy friendships. If your teen's friends drink, your teen is more likely to drink, too. Get to know your teen's friends and their parents.
Friends are a big influence. Teens with friends who drink are more likely to drink themselves. Plus, teens who start drinking before age 15 are six times as likely as those who do not drink before age 21 to develop an alcohol problem.
Effective prevention strategies:
- Know where your child is and what he or she is doing
- Know your child’s friends and encourage healthy friendships
- Build a relationship where your child talks to you about many parts of his or her life
- Enforce the rules you’ve set
- Get support from other parents, your child’s school and your community to discourage underage drinking
Dangers of "social hosting"
Social hosting refers to adults who knowingly or unknowingly host underage drinking parties on their property. What may sound safer actually enables drinking and opens the door to consequences for teens and parents. In Arizona, parents can be held liable for any accidents caused by their intoxicated guests. This includes lawsuits involving violence, sexual assault or drunk driving. But more than any law is a moral obligation to teens. The decision to host is negligent and risky. Teens need adults to be mentors and role models. Let’s set good examples by showing teens they don’t need alcohol to have fun.
Scenarios that count as social hosting:
- Parents decide they’d rather have their kids drink in their home than somewhere else
- Kids have friends over and raid the liquor cabinet
- Kids throw a party on a piece of their parent’s rural property
Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience1,5,10 :
- School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
- Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
- Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
- Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
- Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
- Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
- Physical and sexual assault.
- Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
- Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
- Memory problems.
- Abuse of other drugs.
- Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
- Death from alcohol poisoning.
- Youth who start drinking before age 15 years are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years.8
- Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States.1
- Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year, and cost the U.S. $24 billion in economic costs in 2010.2,3
- Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States.4 More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.4
- On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.5
- In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.6
- When teens feel they have their parents’ approval to drink they do it more and more often when parents aren’t around.
The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days:
- 33% drank some amount of alcohol.
- 18% binge drank.
- 8% drove after drinking alcohol.
- 20% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2007.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI). Atlanta, GA: CDC.
- Sacks JJ, Gonzales KR, Bouchery EE, Tomedi LE, Brewer RD. 2010 National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption. Am J Prev Med 2015; 49(5):e73–e79.
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Drinking in America: Myths, Realities, and Prevention Policy [PDF-1.03MB]. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2005.
- Bonnie RJ and O’Connell ME, editors. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. Committee on Developing a Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2004.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.The DAWN Report: Highlights of the 2010 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Findings on Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits [PDF-410KB]. Rockville, MD; 2012.
- Kann L, McManus T, Harris WA, et al. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ 2016;65(No. SS-6):1–174. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6506a1
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings [PDF-3.2MB]. NSDUH Series H-48, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4863. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.
- Johnston, L D, O'Malley P M, Bachman, J G, & Schulenberg J E. "Monitoring the Future national results on drug use: 2013 Overview- of key findings on Adolescent Drug Use [PDF 3.37 MB] Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.
- Miller JW, Naimi TS, Brewer RD, Jones SE. Binge drinking and associated health risk behaviors among high school students. Pediatrics 2007;119:76–85.