Where exactly do teens get alcohol? This question has troubled adults for years.
Science has shown us what alcohol can do to a teenager’s body and mind. These studies make it evident that there is no good reason to let teens drink.
But somehow, many teens are still able to get alcohol. So where does it come from?
Recently, the team at Safe and Sober took to the streets of our community to learn where it comes from.
We interviewed real Missouri teens to find out some of the ways they got alcohol when they were younger. We also heard some of the places teens might be getting it today.
Several people we spoke with cited parents as their source of alcohol.
The irresponsible decision to give alcohol to your teen can cause lasting damage. Teenagers are still developing. By allowing them to drink at such a young age, you alter a lot of that developmental process.
For starters, drinking under the age of 21 can hurt the progress and growth of the brain.
Alcohol can hurt the part of the brain that handles memory. A teen who drinks is a lot more likely to have trouble with this later on. As they grow, they’ll find it more and more difficult to hold onto information or learn new things.
Alcohol also impacts the front section of the brain. When this part of the brain is exposed to alcohol it alters the decision-making process. When they begin drinking at a young age, teens run a greater risk of making poor choices. This can cause them to act on impulses and not consider the consequences of their actions.
Teens who drink are more likely to become dependent on alcohol. During this time in their lives, teens can become addicted to alcohol in as little as six months. A teen who begins drinking early is also six times more likely to become addicted to alcohol. When teens wait until they are 21 to drink, they can postpone alcohol dependence from problem drinking for another 5 to 15 years.
Drinking at a young age can also cause problems in school, such as getting poor grades and dropping out.
These teens are also likely to engage in risky behavior. Drinking early often leads to a higher chance of drug use or other unsafe activities.
Older Friends and Siblings
Several teens we interviewed talked about their older siblings and friends. Some explained that older people bought alcohol for the teen, even though they weren’t 21 yet.
So, make sure that your teens’ older friends think ahead when they plan weekends and activities. Remind them that there are tons of things to do in any town that don’t involve alcohol.
It’s important to be aware that helping teens get alcohol is illegal and dangerous. Older friends and siblings put everyone at risk when they provide drinks to minors. One sip can make a huge difference when it comes to addiction, dependence and future damage.
It may not be fun to have to leave behind younger brothers, sisters or friends to go drink. But it is for their safety.
Fake IDs, Parties and Strangers
Other ways our interviewees talked about getting alcohol included fake IDs, parties and even strangers.
These ways of getting alcohol stand as a unique challenge to parents. They aren’t always obvious or controllable, and remind us that you are your teen’s first defense.
Talking with your teen about alcohol is the best way to fight underage drinking.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, parent disapproval is a top reason why a teen will choose not to drink. So, talk about alcohol with them.
Make sure they know that drinking underage is illegal and that there are consequences if they do.
Especially make sure they know that most teens don’t drink at all.
Present at the Party
To help your teen, give them a plan for how to handle peer pressure. Let them know that sometimes peer pressure doesn’t come from young people.
Some interviewees talked about complete strangers offering to buy them drinks. Teach your teen how to say “no” to strangers and friends alike.
Talk about the friends they hang out with and keep conversation open about the social events they go to.
It’s also good to talk with them about the consequences of fake IDs.
Using a fake ID as a minor to get liquor is against the law. In the state of Missouri it can also get them a fine of $500 for each offense and the label of a delinquent child.
You are one of the strongest forces in the life of your teenager. Make sure that they know the law and how to make responsible choices to stay safe and sober.