Statistics and Signs of Underage Alcohol Use

Today’s focus is on the dangers of alcohol and how you can recognize the signs of underage drinking.

Our goal at WOW is never to use scare tactics to motivate adults and teenagers, rather, we prefer to stick with statistics. So, what are the dangers of underage drinking?

According to the National Institutes of Health, an average of 4,358 people under age 21 die each year from alcohol related incidents, and over 190,000 visited the emergency rooms for alcohol-related accidents in 2008 (and 188,000 in 2011).

As we’ve noted before, underage drinking leads to risks such as:

  • Impaired judgment—putting youth in risky situations such as drinking and driving, sexual activity, or violence.
  • Increased risk of victimization—youth are statistically more likely to be the victim of physical or sexual assault.
  • Brain development problems—alcohol affects development of the teenager’s brain, which doesn’t stop growing until a person is in his or her mid-20s.

“Hold up!” I hear someone yelling over the Ethernet. “Didn’t you say you prefer statistics rather that scare tactics? So, what do you call this?”

Sadly, we call this statistical proof that underage drinking is dangerous, and the reason every parent should intervene in a teenager’s life if there is a reason to suspect he or she is drinking.

“All right, I’ll give you that,” comes the answer. “But, how can I know if my son or daughter is drinking?”

According to the National Institutes of Health, the following are warning signs of underage alcohol use. Some are obvious, while others may seem like normal teenage behavior. However, the key to remember is an increase in the following behaviors:

  • Changes in mood, including
  • Anger and irritability
  • Academic and/or behavioral problems in school
  • Rebelliousness
  • Changing groups of friends
  • Low energy level
  • Less interest in activities and/or care in appearance
  • Finding alcohol among a young person’s things
  • Smelling alcohol on a young person’s breath
  • Problems concentrating and/or remembering
  • Slurred speech
  • Coordination problems

If you recognize these signs in your own teenager, please get help quickly by contacting a health professional either on your own, or through one of the phone numbers provided on the second page of this PDF.

What's your Take: