Teens Discuss Underage Drinking
It's a common scenario: Teens going to a party at a friend's house on a Friday or Saturday night only to drink and get drunk. Some teens claim it loosens them up, or it keeps them from being shy or even that it makes the whole night more fun. Regardless of why they drink, thousands of teens illegally consume an alcoholic beverage each day, taking the risk of being arrested, assaulted or even killed, reports Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
What's the Attraction?
Just as with drugs and cigarettes, alcohol becomes more readily available as teens get older, says Dr. Gail Gross, host of the "Let's Talk" radio show in Houston, Texas. "As teens get older, they change schools and will begin to interact with older peers. These older peers may have access to alcohol or may know someone who does," she says. "All it takes is one person to agree to purchase alcohol for a teen and the 'connection' has been made."
In addition, with age comes internal conflict. "Teens are caught in between childhood and adulthood," Gross says. "What may have been an issue at the age of eleven or twelve is nothing compared to what these children feel at the age of fifteen or sixteen. There are issues of self-esteem, identity, relationships, sex, love and acceptance. These issues can cause teens to have internal feelings they don't know how to deal with, and some may turn to something to numb themselves from it, such as alcohol."
Finally, there is peer pressure. Wanting to be accepted can be a big issue for teens as they grow. Gross explains that if a teen feels they can be accepted by drinking a beer, they will. "Teens will often take part in inappropriate behaviors as a means to belong," she says. "If a teen finds a group that regularly drinks alcohol, they will drink with them because they want to be with them. Just as an adult will take up the game of golf to impress their boss or colleagues, a teen will begin drinking, smoking or whatever else it takes to impress -- and essentially belong -- to their peers."
"I think a lot of teens may drink alcohol to help them forget about their problems," says Kristen, age 13, from Vancouver, WA. "The only thing wrong with that is they may end up with even worse problems when they drink. They may have so many problems and they don't know how to get rid of them, so they want them to go away and use alcohol to make that happen. Another reason the teens I know drink is because the 'cool' people drink, so if you want to join in or be in their group, you have to drink, too."
Every action has a consequence. According to M.A.D.D., approximately every twenty minutes, a teen is involved in some type of accident related to the use of alcohol. In addition, it is estimated that 15,000 teens die each year from some type of alcohol consumption.
Mosby's Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary states that alcohol has been related to physical and medical complications such as central nervous system depression, cirrhosis of the liver, cardiac problems, dehydration, permanent motor dysfunction, tremors and permanent memory loss. In addition, the "social use of alcohol" for only one to two years can increase the risk of alcoholism by 56 percent.
"I know that alcohol can have bad effects on the body and mind," says Alaina, age 14, from Batavia, Ill. "It can cause diseases, cancers and cripples your ability to think and act appropriately. To me, that's not fun -- it's just crazy."
Many teens know these consequences of alcohol consumption and avoid its use. These teens do not feel that the "high" alcohol gives is worth the risk to their future. "I don't drink because I know that it is bad for you, illegal and can be fatal," says Alaina. "Many of the teens I know say they 'drink to have fun.' Well, there's a difference between having fun and just going out of control. I don't need to drink to have fun. And besides, I don't want to ruin my chances of a good future, hurting myself or someone else."
Many teens hear about the dangers of drinking from their parents and teachers. But in reality, the decision is going to be solely their own. They are the ones who are going to have to take a stand on this issue -- as well as many others. What they think and feel about drinking is what is truly important.
"Teens may get a thrill from drinking for a while but then it wears off," says Holly, age 16, of Springdale, Ark. "A lot of teens want to feel 'big,' like an adult. They try too hard to be grown up when they should just be teens while they can. I have heard my parents talk about the dangers of drinking all my life, but I have made my mind up on my own. These are my reasons."