Widespread use of alcohol by teens is one of the leading health and safety concerns in America.
Kids drink for a variety of reasons. They may wish to be seen as “cool” to their friends. They may try alcohol as a way to help cope with major life changes, or to simply experiment with something they see their parents or other adults do. But teen drinking can be tragic, leading to increased risk-taking, possible brain and growth- development issues, binge drinking, vehicle accidents and, too often, death.
According to the federal government, each year approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking, including deaths from car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning.
Encouraged by advertising, peers
Teens are continually bombarded with messages that encourage the use of alcohol, and as a result many do. They view and hear a constant stream of advertising presented through all kinds of media. They pass by marketing displays and rows of spirits, wine and beer whenever they go to their local supermarket or warehouse store. While these messages may not be intended specifically for teens, they are hard for anyone to ignore.
Classmates may talk about the big party Friday night and how everyone became had a great time and "got really wasted.” They may even be encouraged to sample a beer or glass of wine by their parents, an older sibling or other trusted adult.
Our resources page includes links where parents, educators, community leaders and teens themselves can learn how to prevent and cope with underage drinking issues. One of the best places to start is the Washington State Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking’s Start Talking Now web site.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA) has launched a new campaign, "Talk - They Hear You" that includes several public service announcements and an animated interactive education tool that walks parents through numerous scenarios in which they can help their teens make responsible decisions about drinking. See it on the SAMHSA website.