Being a teenager is an seminal period in a young person's life, and a large part of that experience is the social dynamic of interacting with other young people of the same age and with similar interests.

Underage Drinking

This social interaction, however, can sometimes include the consumption of alcohol, and it goes without saying that while it is best for underage people to avoid alcohol altogether, the reality is that underage drinking occurs.

With this in mind, responsible drinking should always be practiced. Sometimes, however, things can get out of hand, jeopardizing the health and safety of not only the individual, but people around them.

Stimulant Enhanced Drinks

There is growing concern over the dangers of consuming stimulant-enhanced alcoholic drinks. These beverages pose an even greater health threat because the combination of alcohol and caffeine can increase and prolong intoxication.

In fact, some colleges have banned these drinks from their campuses. The problem stems from the fact that the alcohol content of these beverages are higher than usual. The presence of caffeine not only adds to the overall feeling, but can mask the soporific effect that alcohol has on the body. Because alcohol is a depressant, feelings of fatigue often make a drinker slow down their consumption or stop altogether.

Increased Danger

Caffeine, on the other hand, is a stimulant that allows a person to continue drinking, and may in fact encourage over-consumption. To exacerbate the problem, these high-energy alcoholic drinks are marketed in a way that may promote them as energy drinks, and in many stores they are sold right next to the popular energy beverages.

They also come in sweet and fruity flavors, and are priced to make them more accessible. This, in turn, may encourage binge drinking, especially amongst underage drinkers and college students.

A Public Health Problem

Underage drinking and its consequences are a huge problem in this country and a significant public health concern. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that approximately 5000 young people die every year as a result of underage drinking.

From these numbers, nearly 1,900 of the deaths are due to motor vehicle accidents, 1,600 from homicides, and 300 from suicide. This does not count the countless numbers of injuries and accidents that occur as a result of alcohol.

Despite continuous efforts to inform the public of the hazards of drinking, underage drinking continues to be an issue. In fact, surveys have found that three-fourths of 12th graders and two-thirds of 10th graders have consumed alcohol. Young drinkers also tend to drink intensively, having as many as four or five drinks at one time, thereby increasing the hazards of consumption.

What Parents Can Do

Drinking is a problem that every parent should be aware of. Kids who drink are more likely to be victims of violent crime, perform poorly in school, and increase their chances of dying in a car accident. If you are a parent of an adolescent, these are some important points to keep in mind.

  • Talk to you children. Take the time to have that difficult conversation, and let them know that if there are problems or issues in their lives, they can talk to you about them at anytime.
     
  • Develop trust. At some point, kids need to know that there is someone they can turn to in their time of need, and trust is essential in this relationship.
     
  • Show you care. Even if your child doesn't express it, they value your concern and it helps them feel more secure in rough world.
     
  • Set limits. As a parent, you can play a large role in whether or not your teenager drinks and what sort of company they keep.
     
  • Set the proper example. Do not drink excessively, ever if possible, but at least not in the presence of your children.
     
  • Respect them. Let your kids know you respect them as people, but also that as a parent, it is you who sets the rules.

If you have questions or concerns about underage drinking, visit the website for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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