Teens experimenting with drinking causes scary consequences

Published 9:20 am Sunday, July 28, 2013

Column: Families First, by Maryanne Law

Question: I remember my own teen years, and I really think that a few drinking parties are basically harmless.

Maryanne Law

Maryanne Law

Answer: Drinking is not like it used to be. When you were a teen, you and your friends could pool your money and come up with $10. You bought two 12 packs – two or four beers a piece. Now, many teens have between $20 and $50 in their pockets. The same number of kids, but 10 times more beer.

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You and your friends probably drank to have fun. Today’s youth drink to get drunk. It’s called binge drinking. Have you noticed in the newspapers how many more young people are dying by suffocating from their own vomit or are dying of cardiac arrest?

When you were young, you and your friends piled into one car. Now everyone has a car. So now there are six drunken kids driving themselves home. How many more fatal accidents will there be?

When you were a teen, you didn’t worry about dying from AIDS. Your teen does. Did you know that teenagers are contracting AIDS at the highest rate of any group in society? Did you know that the major way kids are contracting AIDS is as a result of sexual behavior associated with drinking alcohol?

You didn’t need to worry about date rape drugs. Your daughter does. Did you know that the recipe is on the Internet? It’s tasteless, colorless and odorless. Even if your daughter drinks water, she is not safe at an underage drinking party if some sexually motivated person decides to slip the drug into what she’s drinking to put her into a stupor.

We now know that many people who began drinking alcohol when they were teens remain immature as adults. Recent scientific advances have shown that alcohol works differently in a teenage brain than in an adult brain. When alcohol reaches a teenager’s brain, the alcohol triggers the cells to release a chemical that tells the brain that it’s time to quit growing. Alcohol can stop brain growth.

Today 70 percent of all underage drinking parties also have illegal drugs. Teenagers love to experiment and are easily influenced by other teens. Teens who use drugs are happy to share their chemical substances and the decisions teens make when they are drinking are different from the ones they make when they are sober.

Finally, the Minnesota State Legislature has passed laws that allow injured parties to sue parents in civil court if you provided the alcohol that contributed to any accident, injury, vandalism or destruction. The civil suit is in addition to your liability in criminal court.

Alcohol is a powerful substance that often causes adults a lot of problems. There are very good reasons the legal system has determined it is not a substance that adolescents are ready to handle.

To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org.


Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.