The misconception that underage drinking is okay or acceptable is not limited to teens. Some parents condone it in their home while others are pretend to be oblivious and sing the “everyone has drank underage” song.
Teenagers are getting smarter. Technology has helped teens pinpoint places where they can purchase alcohol, obtain a fake ID, be served, or even find different products containing alcohol that they can consume, such as mouthwash and hand sanitizer.
The underage drinking problem has reached a fever pitch, and North Carolina is leading the crusade to help tackle this growing issue amongst teens. With the help of several counties and advocacy groups, North Carolina has started the Underage Drinking Pilot Program.
The program was designed around various facts and data collected in North Carolina and nationally. The program tackles several key areas that most parents, teachers, and other adults do not realize or actively associates with underage drinking.
It’s time to shine a spotlight on what you didn’t know about underage drinking.
The Rite of Passage Myth
Having a sip of alcohol has been considered a rite of passage for a long time, especially in the south. However, as North Carolina looks deeper into the underage drinking problem, the state is forcibly pushing adherence to the rule of 21.
Over the past few years, North Carolina saw an increase amongst parents and teens who believed that drinking under the age of 21 was an acceptable behavior. As this mentality rose, so did the number of deaths directly related to underage drinking.
North Carolina formed the Talk it Out NC campaign to help decrease the number of underage drinking, alcohol-related deaths, and also sway parents of the need to change their mindset regarding this issue. So far it has worked.
A Look at National Statistics
A study released in 2013 by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicated that on a national scale, underage drinking was becoming a severe problem. Take a look at some of the Institute’s findings:
- 4 million tweens and young adults from the ages of 12-20 participated in binge drinking.
- 4 million tweens and young adults from the ages of 12-20 admitted to having at least one drink within the month before the study was conducted.
- Over 4,300 people under the age of 21 die in alcohol-related deaths directly related to suicide, homicide, car crashes, alcohol poisoning, falls, drownings, and burns.
- Underage drinking is contributed to impaired thinking, which leads to poor decision making.
- Underage drinking can be contributed to increased sexual assaults.
- Underage drinking can also cause irreversible brain damage.
Still think that it’s a rite of passage?
It’s Not Just Drinking
Underage drinking is not just taking a sip or two of beer. A study conducted in Mecklenburg County showed that 34% of teens were underage drinkers and 19% admitted to binge drinking. It’s no secret that binge drinking can lead to many serious problems such as violence, alcohol poisoning, impaired judgment, and seizures.
The Consequences of Getting Caught
No one likes spending money unnecessarily. As a parent, you operate on a budget, and you don’t always have money for unexpected and large expenses. Your teenage son or daughter getting caught drinking under the age of 21 in North Carolina is costly. If your teen is caught drinking before the legal age limit, the monetary consequences look like this:
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- Under 21 and Driving Drunk: You can imagine that the fees will be a little steeper for your teenage or college student. The penalty can mean no driver’s license for a year, a hefty fine, jail time, and a quadruple increase in car insurance lasting up to five years.
If somehow your child has convinced you to purchase alcohol for them and their friends (or you don’t see a problem with such action), know that you can, and most likely, will go to jail. The parents of your child’s friends can also take legal action, especially if their children are hurt at or after leaving your home.
Is Your Child an Alcoholic?
Drinking comes with the risk of alcoholism. How do you even determine what a teenage alcoholic looks like?
Teenagers are already moody and unpredictable. It’s part of puberty. However, knowing what signs to look for to determine the severity of your child’s drinking problem (if there is one) is important.
The first thing you must do is talk to your teen. Know what is going at school, with their friends, what is bothering them, and ask questions.
Silence can be deadly, literally. Not talking to your teen about underage drinking, its consequences, and your expectations can put them in next year’s statistics.
If you have talked to your teen, still suspect something is up and that they may be participating in underage drinking, look for these signs:
- Behavioral problems in school
- Odd or pungent odors, a strong smell of liquor or alcohol
- Rebelliousness, sneaking out the house, keeping secrets or hiding things
- Not caring about anything that they used to care about
- Slurred and mumbled speech
- Bloodshot or red eyes
If any of these symptoms describe your child, then it’s time to step in and intervene. Get your child the help they need in order to make sure they stay happy and healthy. If you suspect they are involved in underage drinking and may be (or have) developed a drinking problem, contact a reputable substance abuse counselor for help.
Underage drinking is serious business, and when it comes to your child, your first priority is to ensure their safety. You cannot be everywhere all of the time, and you have to trust your child. However, sometimes you must intervene and when it comes to underage drinking know that you are protecting your teen from a lifetime of regret by doing so.