Teenagers are notorious for making poor decisions, but fortunately for them, it’s not exactly their fault. In fact, it’s actually the result of an under-developed frontal lobe. While teenagers are capable of reasonable thought processes, it’s more difficult for them to think before they act due to poor impulse control.
As a teenager’s brain continues to develop, these decision-making skills improve, but new studies are finding that the risk of over consuming alcohol or drinking and driving is killing and dangerously affecting teens before their decision-making skills have a chance to change.
Teenage Alcohol Consumption Statistics
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services reported that 6.5 million teens out of 10 million are classified as binge drinkers, meaning they consume at least four alcoholic beverages within a two-hour span of time. For the average adult, this would increase Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) to at least .08%, if not higher. Considering the fact that teenagers are usually lower in body mass and fat than the average adult, this BAC is expected to be significantly higher.
Additionally, 2 million teens were classified as heavy drinkers, indicating that they binge drink at least five days out of the month. To put these numbers into perspective, a low-risk drinker would consume less than 3 drinks per day, and no more than seven drinks in a week. These low-risk numbers are also based on the average adult, meaning that a low-risk drinking teenager would need to drink even less.
High Risks Decisions Under the Influence
Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol is a risky behavior because of the harmful effects on the body, especially in teenagers who are still developing. This becomes even more dangerous when you factor in the potential to pair high-risk activities with alcohol.
This creates a circumstance in which an individual who already has poor decision-making skills and is under the influence of a mind-altering substance is put in situations that can have serious or fatal consequences. One such situation is driving drunk; nearly 37 percent of all fatal traffic incidents among teens are alcohol-related.
In addition to drinking and driving, accidents such as drowning, burns, and falls are more common among those who had consumed alcohol.
Depressant type drugs, like alcohol, were also linked to mental health disorders. Those who consumed alcohol had a greater risk of experiencing anxiety and depression, as well as exhibiting suicidal ideations and actually attempting suicide.
Women reported to having higher instances of sexual encounters when under the influence of alcohol and were also reported to making sexual decisions that they would otherwise not be comfortable with while under the influence—whether with a new or long-term partner. Finally, there is a high instance of binge drinking among young people who are diagnosed with STDs.
Alcohol Consumption Can Put You at Risk for being Targeted
Even if you’re a personality type who isn’t prone to making high-risk decisions, being inebriated can lead to higher instances of being targeted for a crime. An estimated 50 percent of all violent crimes are alcohol-related. The instance of sexual assaults on intoxicated victims or by intoxicated perpetrators is so high that many colleges have taken to posting warnings on their websites. One such page details alarming statistics:
- 44 percent of victims of sexual assault and rape are under the age of 18.
- 1 in 3 perpetrators who commit a sexual assault or rape are intoxicated.
- 38 percent of women who are victims of sexual assault in college were previously assaulted.
Car Accidents Aren’t the Only Way That Alcohol Can Kill
You don’t have to be driving or exhibiting other high-risk behaviors for alcohol abuse to be fatal. Alcohol poisoning occurs when an individual has consumed more alcohol than the body can process, leading to serious symptoms including seizures, decreased respiration, low body temperature and unconsciousness.
Alcohol poisoning can be fatal through:
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Brain Damage
Another way that alcohol abuse can cause death is during detox and withdrawal. Detox for alcohol abuse can be fatal if not done in a supervised medical facility; however, many teens don’t recognize the symptoms of alcohol abuse or even that their drinking is severe enough to require a medical detox process, forcing them to experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as:
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Delirium tremens
The most serious symptom of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens. Up to five percent of people who experience delirium tremens die as a result of the condition. Symptoms are severe and include hallucinations, hypertension, and cardiac arrhythmia.
Fortunately, it’s rare for an individual to get to this final stage of alcohol withdrawal without realizing that they need medical attention. However, because alcohol consumption for underage people is illegal, many teens will choose to try to tough out the withdrawal symptoms in order to avoid potential legal trouble.
Communicating with Teens about Alcohol Abuse Can Lower Risks
It may not be possible to entirely prevent teenage drinking but talking to your teenager about the risks is proven to help eliminate potential risk factors. Communicating openly and without judgment can help lessen the stigma of underage drinking and start an open dialogue between you and your child. Asking your teen for their views on the subject and being prepared to give honest answers to questions can be helpful in preventing alcohol-related incidents.
One very important thing to remember is that you may not be able to stop your teenager from trying alcohol. Let them know that if they can’t drive or if they find themselves in a bad situation they can call you for help without shaming them. Talking to them in an open and understanding manner can help prevent serious and potentially life-threatening situations.