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Montgomery, AL– The holiday season is a time to enjoy family gatherings, festivities, and exchange gifts. For teens, it is a time of fun and celebration, especially since school is out for winter break. However it is during this time that teens are at risk for underage alcohol use.

In a report by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) more than 11,000 young people aged 12 to 17, will use alcohol for the first time on an average December day.  Unfortunately, some of these young adults will not make it to the New Year, as nearly 400 young people under age 21 die from alcohol-related causes every month.

As aforementioned, youth are at risk when it comes to underage drinking. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States. In addition, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.

Although adolescents and young adults drink less often than adults, they tend to drink more than adults, frequently drinking as many as 5 or more drinks on a single occasion,

Underage drinking affects youth in all races and ethnicities. According to SAMHSA, for young people between the ages of 12 and 20, the reported rates of alcohol use in the past month in 2014 were: 13.5% of Asian Americans, 17.3% of African-Americans, 21.1% of people reporting two or more races, 21.2% of Hispanics, 21.9% of American Indians/Alaska Natives, 26% of whites.

The impact of underage drinking on youth can be very adverse. The SAMHSA reports that underage drinking contributes to the likelihood of risky sexual behavior, including unwanted, unintended, and unprotected sexual activity, and sex with multiple partners. In addition, it increases the risk of encountering legal problems, such as being arrested for drunk driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.

According to CDC, some consequences of underage drinking include a higher risk for suicide and homicide, alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning, memory problems. Underage drinking can also cause abuse of other drugs, changes in brain development that may have life-long effects, and death from alcohol poisoning.

There are warning signs of underage drinking that parents and teachers should pay attention to. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) tells us that some of these warning signs include academic and/or behavioral problems in school, rebelliousness, changing groups of friends, low energy level, and less interest in activities and/or care in appearance. Other warning signs are finding alcohol among a young person’s things, smelling alcohol on a young person’s breath, problems concentrating and/or remembering, slurred speech, and coordination problems.

To treat underage drinking, NIAAA recommends seeing a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other trained professional.  Participating in outpatient or inpatient treatment at a substance abuse treatment facility or other licensed program .is also an option

For more information about underage drinking please visit www.niaaa.nih.gov.


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