Alcohol is the drug of choice for teenagers in the United States, with more than 11 percent of alcohol consumed by an underage drinker, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a parent, you might be considering allowing your teenager to partake in alcohol for a religious ceremony, on a special occasion or because you think that allowing him to consume alcohol may take the mystery away and lead to less teen drinking. Underage drinking has several risks, however, and providing alcohol to your teenager might turn out to be an unwise decision.
In all 50 states, the legal drinking age is 21 years old. Out of the 50 states in the union, 43 allow underage drinking in specific circumstances such as at home with a parent, as part of a religious ceremony or as treatment for a medical condition. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Missouri, New Hampshire and West Virginia offer no exceptions for teenagers to consume alcohol legally. Some states -- Nevada, Connecticut, Louisiana, Texas, Massachusetts, Kansas, Mississippi, New York, Wisconsin and Wyoming allow a minor to possess and drink alcohol in a public place as long as a parent or guardian is present. Other states -- Virginia, South Carolina, Oregon, Oklahoma, Ohio, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nebraska, Montana, Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, Iowa, Illinois, Georgia, Delaware, Colorado and Alaska allow a minor to drink at home with a parent or guardian present but not in a public place.
Of the alcohol consumed by minors each year in the United States, 90 percent is in the form of binge drinking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Binge drinking is consuming more five or more drinks in two hours for males and four or more drinks in two hours for females, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Binge drinking presents risks to your teenager that include alcohol poisoning, injury, risk taking and death. Short-term risks are not the only thing you as a parent should be worry about when it comes to binge drinking. Regular consumption can lead to school problems, social problems, disruption of normal development and memory problems.
Your teen’s brain will continue to develop until her early 20s, according to We Don’t Serve Teens, a national campaign to prevent underage drinking. Introducing alcohol to a developing brain might have long-term effects on long-term thinking and memory skills, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Alcohol given to animals whose brains are still developing show long-term mental impairment as the animal ages.
Teens who drink before reaching the legal drinking age have shown an increased risk of alcohol dependence and problems later in life, according to We Don’t Serve Teens, which reports that for every year a teen refrains from taking his first drink that his risk of alcohol dependence decreases by 14 percent. In addition, the rate of attempted suicide among teens who engage in underage drinking is four times that of non-drinking teens. The use of alcohol is linked to at least 300 suicides annually, according to We Don’t Serve Teens.