Alcohol is a product that is only legal for those that are 21 years of age, and is a depressant that comes from organic sources including grapes, grains and berries. These products are fermented and distilled into a liquid.
A standard drink is:
- One 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler;
- One 5-ounce glass of wine; or
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
Alcohol affects every part of the body. It is carried through the bloodstream to the brain, stomach, internal organs, liver, kidneys, and muscles – everywhere. It is absorbed very quickly (as short as 5 – 10 minutes) and can stay in the body for several hours. Alcohol affects the central nervous system and brain. It can make users loosen up, relax, and feel more comfortable, or can make them more aggressive.
Unfortunately, it also lowers their inhibitions, which can set them up for embarrassing or dangerous behavior. In fact, each year approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking. This statistic (from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle accidents; 1,600 homicides; 300 suicides; and hundreds of others stemming from injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings.
Did you know that alcohol can impair the parts of the brain that control the following:
Motor coordination. This includes the ability to walk, drive, and process information.
Impulse control. Drinking lowers inhibitions and increases the chances that a person will do something that they will regret.
Memory. Impaired recollection and even blackouts can occur when too much alcohol has been consumed.
Judgment and decision making capacity. Drinking may lead young people to engage in risky behaviors that can result in illness, injury, and even death.
It’s no secret that society gives children mixed messages about alcohol. As a parent, you should know that underage drinking can have serious consequences, especially on the still-developing teenage brain.
Many kids start drinking in middle school. In fact, one out of every two 8th graders has tried alcohol. Additionally, more kids use alcohol than use tobacco or illicit drugs and more children are killed by alcohol than all illegal drugs combined.
But the risky behavior does not end there.
Dependence. In recent studies, people who reported starting to drink before the age of 15 were four times more likely to also report meeting the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives. In fact, new research shows that the serious drinking problems (including what is called alcoholism) typically associated with middle age actually begin to appear much earlier, during young adulthood and even adolescence.
Illicit drug use. More than 67 percent of young people who start drinking before the age of 15 will try an illicit drug. Children who drink are over 7 times more likely to use any illicit drug, are over 22 times more likely to use marijuana, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine than children who never drink.
Sexual activity. Alcohol use by teens is a strong predictor of both sexual activity and unprotected sex. A survey of high school students found that 18 percent of females and 39 percent of males say it is acceptable for a boy to force sex if the girl is high or drunk.
Violence. Children who start drinking before age 15 are 12 times more likely to be injured while under the influence of alcohol and 10 times more likely to be in a fight after drinking, compared with those who wait until they are 21 to drink.
School. Student substance use precedes, and is a risk factor for, academic problems, such as lower grades, absenteeism and high dropout rates. Alcohol can interfere with a student’s ability to think, making learning and concentration more difficult and ultimately impeding academic performance. In fact, the more a student uses alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, the lower his/her grade point average is likely to be and the more likely he or she is to drop out of school.
Driving. When young people drink and get into a car, they tend to make poor decisions that impact their safety. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, traffic crashes are the number one killer of teens and over one-third of teen traffic deaths are alcohol-related.
Parents can take the following steps to encourage their children to abstain from alcohol:
- Spend time together regularly.
- Listen and talk with your children. Try to understand the pressures placed on them and don’t criticize their beliefs.
- Keep track of where your children are, what they are doing, and who their friends are.
- Get them involved in after-school activities so they won’t be able to just “hang out” with friends in the afternoon. This is when children are most likely to experiment.
- Praise or reward children often. If they feel good about themselves, they will be more confident and better able to resist peer pressure.
- Be a positive role model for your children. Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs.
Across the country, parents are being held responsible for youth drinking in very tangible ways. That trend includes the South Bay. Back in February, Manhattan Beach’s City Council unanimously approved the introduction of Ordinance 2096 which creates a Civil Social Host Ordinance which will hold non-commercial individuals responsible for any underage drinking of alcoholic beverages on property they own, lease, or otherwise control. This ordinance increases the level of responsibility for adults to ensure that underage drinking does not occur at their homes, mainly at parties. In the past, when police have discovered underage drinking occurring at people’s homes, the controlling adult would claim ignorance and little could be done about the situation. However, underage drinking is a major problem in the United States and the City of Manhattan Beach is taking proactive steps to protect their youth. Despite minors making up only one-tenth of the State’s population, the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) states that minors are involved in nearly half of the alcohol related fatal traffic collisions in the state.
So, the next time you are hosting a party for teenagers, take the time to ensure there is no underage drinking occurring on the property you control. The fine for the first offense will be $1000 and will increase with each subsequent violation. Should the police discover that any adult knowingly allowed underage drinking to occur on their property, they could be subject to a criminal offense as well; contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which is a jailable offense.