The drinking age in the United States has been set for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is safety concerns. Because bodies and minds are still developing in the teenage years, government officials and healthcare organizations agree that it’s safer for people to wait for the age of 21 before consuming alcohol.
Although the law stands fast, it’s not uncommon for teens to experiment with drinking before age 21. Parties are thrown, kegs are ordered, and underage teens find themselves in the middle of it all. Though parents and lawmakers try to find ways around it, the will of a teenager is often unalterable.
When teens can’t be stopped from drinking, no matter how hard you try, it’s important to at least encourage safety when alcohol is present. Teenage girls in particular have some health and safety concerns that must be addressed. Here are some of the most important.
Teen Alcohol Abuse
The statistics regarding teen alcohol abuse are shocking. According to surveys from the CDC:
- 35 percent of responding teenagers drank some amount of alcohol
- 21 percent of responding teenagers participate in binge drinking
- 11 percent of alcohol consumed in the United States is by those ages 12 – 20 years of age
- 90 percent of underage drinkers drink until they’re drunk.
The results of such alcohol abuse are not pretty. It’s a major cause of death and injury in teenagers, and the statistics are only growing.
- 189,000 drinkers under the age of 21 visit the emergency room each year to seek treatment for injuries sustained while drunk, conditions linked to alcohol, and alcohol overdose.
- 4,300 teenagers die each year from alcohol related incidents.
The consequences for teen alcohol abuse are scary and extremely high. Though teenagers have a tendency to believe themselves as invincible, recognizing these frightening statistics can help to persuade teens that drinking underage isn’t wise.
Teens much also consider the amount of alcohol that can be consumed for a person dependent on body weight. Some people can’t drink as much as others, and it’s essential that they understand this or find themselves hospitalized as a result. Girls will be able to drink less than boys, for starters, because they tend to be smaller.
Using tools like BloodAlcoholCalculator.org, teens can determine the safe amount of alcohol to consume. Remember that a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.8 percent is considered legally drunk in the United States, mandating that a person shouldn’t drive. In most cases for teenage girls, a range of 0.35 to 0.40 percent is deadly.
Results of Underage Drinking
As mentioned previously, the drinking age has been set at 21 because it’s unhealthy and unsafe for teenagers to consume large amounts of alcohol. First of all, research shows that teen drinking may cause irreversible brain damage.
One of many studies on this topic was led by neuroscientist Susan Tapert of the University of California. When compared to brain scans of teens who don’t drink, the brain scans of teens who do showed reduction in areas like attention spans and the ability to comprehend and interpret visual information.
“The adolescent brain is still undergoing several maturational processes that render it more vulnerable to some of the effects of substances,” Tapert says, explaining why drinking can be so detrimental to teens.
She also pointed out that there are particularly damaging effects for girls. “For girls who had been engaging in heavy drinking during adolescence, it looks like they’re performing more poorly on tests of spatial functioning, which links to mathematics, engineering kinds of functions,” she reported.
Teenagers should recognize how much heavy drinking can impact a girl for the rest of her life. Drinking while the brain is still maturing should be kept to a minimum.
Sexual Abuse When Drinking
For teenagers, drinking almost always comes with partying, and partying comes with unsafe sexual activities. When your body has ingested alcohol, it’s hard to think straight, and you might do things you wouldn’t normally do, such as have unprotected sex.
This leaves teenagers open to developing STDs. According to research, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for 50 percent of all STDs, primarily as a result of inebriation.
Aside from that concern, there’s also the risk of sexual assault, particularly for women.
- Those between the ages of 12 and 34 account for nearly 70 percent of all sexual assault cases
- Approximately 82 percent of all juvenile victims are women
- One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape.
Alcohol plays a huge role in rape and sexual assault attacks. Although those seeking to commit rape will often do so without inebriation, men are more likely to attempt rape when intoxicated, and they often target intoxicated teenage girls because they’re less able to fight. On the flipside, women are more likely to get out of the situation unharmed when they’re not under the influence.
Drunk Driving and DUIs
Teenage drunk driving endangers the lives of both the teen who’s been drinking and everyone else on the road. The statistics show that one in 10 teens drink and drive. This is bad news since drivers aged 16-20 are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when their drunk. In most states, teenagers who drink and drive will be charged with a DUI, just like an adult.
Teens should take the same precautions here as an overage drinker when they know they’ll be consuming alcohol. Have a designated driver present or find another way home, such as the bus.
Signs of Addiction
Although addiction to alcohol is more likely in males than females, teenage girls are not immune to its effects. Addiction is a very serious thing. It indicates a crossover from casual, social drinking to a dependence on the substance that will dry your bank account and damage relationships. It can also seriously impact your cognitive function.
Some of the most common signs of addiction include:
- Drinking to fulfill an emotional need
- Lying about or hiding your drinking from friends
- Being unable to stop drinking once you start
- Difficulties in your relationships
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Withdrawals when going without alcohol
- An inability to quit
Teenage girls naturally have a stronger chance of avoiding addiction than boys, but they can improve their chances of success by:
- Setting drinking goals early on in which limits are placed on alcohol consumption
- Keeping a drinking diary to ensure goals are kept
- Drinking slowly when at a party to avoid drinking too much
- Taking occasional breaks from alcohol to let the substance leave your system and ensure you’re not addicted.
Teenage girls who are diagnosed with alcoholism, or a dependence on alcohol, must seek recovery in order to put their lives back together and eliminate the unhealthy dependence. The best path to recovery in this instance involves turning to the right resources. For teenage girls that includes:
- Alcoholics Anonymous for Teens: Alateen is a 12-step recovery program that uses a mixture of psychology and social connection to eliminate the addiction.
- Residential Treatment Centers for Teen Girls: This refers to an academy where girls can room and board with other girls who have similar problems while undergoing treatment. Havenwood Academy is one such treatment center in Utah that aims to help girls and their families overcome the emotional difficulties of teenage addiction.
- Support System: Family, friends, and schools should be very supportive of every teen’s path to recovery. Without a support system helping troubled teens make the right choice, it’s difficult to survive the challenges of recovery.
Teens addicted to alcohol must decide they need help before any good will come of these resources, however. There’s no way to force a teenage girl to check into a recovery program or make an effort to alter her urges for alcohol.
There are a lot of arguments against teen alcohol abuse, but the most important thing is that teens who don’t listen to the warnings are safe when drinking alcohol. There are a lot of risks, and putting safety measures in place could save lives.
For more information about the risks of teenage alcoholism and what can be done about it, contact Havenwood Academy at 877-830-7012.