Can you imagine your 13-year old daughter sipping a margarita? Or your 15-year old son downing a pint of beer? It seems unimaginable but it is more common than we think. During the last couple years, there have been more and more cases of teenagers collapsing following binge drinking, some even falling into alcohol-induced coma or dying.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging pediatric doctors to discourage their patients to consume alcohol. This is according to the latest policy statement issued by the AAP. The reasons for this call may seem obvious but here are some things we should be aware of:
Adolescent alcohol consumption:
- is the major contributor to the leading causes of teen deaths: accidental injury (particularly car accidents), homicide and suicide.
- increases greatly the chances teens will engage in other risky actions such as substance use, unsafe sex and violent behavior.
- is more likely to result in binge drinking than alcohol use among adults.
- affects developing brains and general health, including possibly harming liver function and ability to fight infections.
- means the earlier they start drinking, the higher is the risk for alcohol abuse in the future.
But hey, how can teenagers get access to alcohol? That’s what the alcohol age limit is for, right?
Unfortunately, there are lots of ways and means by which teenager can cheat or get around alcohol legislations.
False ID. Having a false ID is the most common way by which teens get access to alcohol. The IDs are for sale on the streets and a large proportion of urban teens have them.
Loopholes in the legislation. Alcohol legislations are full of loopholes. Here are some examples:
- In Switzerland, teens are not allowed to enter clubs and other establishments where alcohol us served. There is, however, a loophole: they can, if they are accompanied by an adult, somebody who is at least 18 years old. In other words, a group of teens would only need one fake ID to get into these places. Once they are in, access to alcohol gets easier.
- In the US, some states have lower age limit than others. Thus, young people can cross statelines and get drunk there legally.
Alcohol at home. Finally, the easiest way for teens to get access to alcohol is by raiding dad ‘s or mom’s stock. In the UK, even children have alcohol if supervised by an adult at home. Unfortunately, the term “supervision” is not clearly defined by law, leaving its implementation at the discretion of the parents.
Finally, here are some statistics from the Center of Disease Prevention and Control (CDC):
- More than 90% of seniors in high school and 60% of eighth-graders say alcohol is fairly easy or very easy to get.
- 29% of high school students report riding one or more times in the previous month in a car driven by someone who had been drinking.
- 10.5% of those students had driven a car at least once in the previous month when they had been drinking.
The new AAP policy statement indicates that parental guidance on alcohol may not be enough, that inputs from health care professionals, especially primary care physicians, may curb the growing teenage alcohol problem.