2019 National Prevention Week – Preventing Underage Drinking and Alcohol Misuse

Underage drinking kills more teens than all other illicit drugs combined, about 4,300 annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Prevention Week is this week. Tuesday’s focus is on alcohol.

While most people think of car crashes when they think of alcohol related death, that only makes up 1/3 of deaths, according to data from the FBI and the CDC. Homicide and suicide make up another third, while the last third are made up from alcohol poisonings, fires, drowning, falls, etc.

Aside from death, there are a number of other issues a teen can face. Teens who start drinking at 13 (the average age of first use in Texas) are five times more likely to develop an alcohol dependence, according to SAMHSA. Because alcohol damages the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning, teens who drive are five times more likely to drop out of high school. Teens who drink are more likely to be sexually assaulted, have unprotected sex, contract an STI or become pregnant.

Underage drinking cost Texas taxpayers $5.5 billion in 2013.

While a parent may think that providing alcohol to their teen at home can “teach them to drink responsibly,” according to research in Lancet Public Health, teens who sip at home are more likely to binge drink away from home, because they don’t view alcohol as dangerous.

Instead, research shows that having honest conversations with your child, early and often about your disapproval, is one of the most effective ways to deter underage drinking. Instead of being too harsh or using scare tactics, come up with consequences together with your child and talk about other ways they can have fun and take safer risks than the devastating consequences that can come from drinking underage.

For more information on how to talk to your child about underage drinking, visit dontprovideetx.com.