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Alcohol Awareness Month: Teens and Alcohol

Teen drinking is not inevitable, in fact a majority of high school seniors choose not to drink alcohol. One way to prevent teens from drinking is to cut off easy access to alcohol. Most teens find it very easy to get alcohol, and a reported 72% say they don't have to pay for it. They get it from friends, family members, at parties, or just by taking it without permission. (Federal Trade Commission)

When teens drink, alcohol affects their brains in the short-term -- but repeated drinking can also impact it down the road as they grow and develop. Short-term consequences include poor decision-making, less aware of their behavior, more likely to engage in risky behavior, less likely to recognize potential danger, and even alcohol poisoning. Long-term alcohol use as a teen can result in negative effects on information processing and learning, as well as an increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder later in life. (NIDA)

Here's what you can do to reduce easy access to alcohol:

At Home:

  • Make sure teens can't access alcohol without your knowledge. Unmonitored alcohol, including alcohol stored in a cabinet, basement, or garage, can be a temptation. When in doubt, lock it up.

  • Exercise your influence. Data shows that teens continue to care what their parents think, even while they are in high school and college. Let your teen know that you don't want them to drink and that most teens choose not to.

In Your Community:

  • Speak up, because silence can be misinterpreted. Let your friends, neighbors, and family members know that the minimum drinking age is to protect teens, and that you don't want your teen to drink.

  • Take action before a situation arises. Start talking to the parents of your teen's friends early, like in middle school. Tell them the risks of teen drinking and that you don't want anyone to allow your teen to drink.

  • Talk to your school board, school principals, teachers and coaches. Ask them to discourage underage drinking.

  • Let local law enforcement know that you encourage active policing of noisy teen parties that may signal alcohol use.

Sources: Federal Trade Commission, SAMHSA

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