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A survey by Caron Treatment Centers reveals that 41% percent believe it’s best for teenagers to learn to “drink responsibly” in high school rather than waiting until they’re of legal age, 29% agreed it’s fine for high-school students to drink as long as they don’t drive and only 40%  have parents with a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking.

These statistics show that there is a lack of education to parents about the severe dangers of underage drinking.

Here are the 7 main consequences of underage drinking (click the down arrow for more information on each point):

1. Brain Development Problems

The brain doesn’t finish developing until the mid-twenties and introducing alcohol during this critical time has serious consequences.

The prefrontal cortex enables a person to think clearly, to make good decisions and to control impulses. Underage drinking could cause severe changes in this area, which plays an important role in forming adult personality and behavior. Damage from alcohol at this time can be long-term and irreversible.

The hippocampus, involved in learning and memory, suffers the worst alcohol related brain damage in teens. Long-term, heavy drinking causes teens to have a 10% smaller hippocampi (American Medical Association, 2010). In addition, short-term or moderate drinking impairs learning and memory far more in youths than adults. Frequent drinkers may never be able to catch up in adulthood since alcohol inhibits systems crucial for storing new information.

2. Increased Risk of Alcohol Dependence

Children who begin drinking at age 13 have a 45% chance of becoming alcohol-dependent. A person who starts drinking at the legal age of 21 has only a 7% chance of becoming addicted (According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

3. Risky Sexual Behavior

Youth who drink alcohol more commonly engage in sexual intercourse when drinking, have sexual experiences at an earlier age, have sex with multiple partners, engage in unprotected or unplanned sex, experience unexpected pregnancies, have babies with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum (FAS) disorders and contract more sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than youth who do not drink.

4. Increased Risk for Physical and Sexual Assault

Teens who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault (According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).

5. Poor Academic Performance

High school students who abuse alcohol have severe academic problems and are five times more likely to drop out of high school (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

6. Death

5,000 people under age 21 die each year from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other injuries (According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).

7. Monetary Costs on the Community

In 2013, underage drinking cost the citizens of Texas $5.5 billion. These costs include medical care, work loss, criminal justice and pain and suffering associated with multiple problems resulting from the use of alcohol by youth. This translates to $3.50 per drink consumed underage (Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention).

Check out these tips for keeping your kids drug and alcohol free and these tips for talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol.

If you’re interested in making it less likely that teens in your community will use drugs or alcohol, contact us about joining a local coalition.