We all know drinking under the age of 21 in the United States is prohibited, but does everyone follow this law? Obviously there are teenagers who will go behind our backs and drink regardless of what the legal age may be, but what about parents? Have you ever allowed your child to indulge in the occasional drink? Maybe you think it’s better for them to indulge and experiment at home under your watchful eye. Or perhaps you don’t think it’s a big deal, and you should let your teenager live a little. What you may not know is there are recent studies suggesting a real, tangible difference between teenage drinking and drinking in your twenties.
U.S. News reported a study that found strong effects on brain development in teens who consume alcohol. Drinking at such a young age has also been linked to a gene mutation, which feeds impulsive behavior. Indeed, further findings suggest a difference in a person’s obsession with binge drinking and their addiction to alcoholic beverages if they begin drinking at a young age.
One of the studies conducted examined brain scans from participants ages 12 to 24. A comparison between teenagers who drank heavily and those who abstained from alcoholic consumption revealed a significant decline in the brain’s gray matter. Furthermore, those who indulged in alcohol showed less development in the brain’s white matter. The results help us better understand the poor school performances haunting teenage drinkers.
Another study involved twins. It examined the differences between one who was drinking heavily as a teenager and the other who led a sober life. The results showed a difference in DNA where a mutation in the PPMG1 gene increased the impulsive habits of the twin who abused alcohol. The findings were later confirmed in another test, in which 14-year-olds showed similar mutations of the same gene.
The Hard Facts
For teenagers, alcohol abuse is the most common form of substance abuse. What may be tough to swallow is that nearly half of all high school students are drinking alcoholic beverages at least once a month. These statistics are troubling, especially when you consider the negative effects of alcoholism in teenagers.
Young drinkers are less capable of paying attention, resulting in poor scholastic performance. Withdrawal from alcohol can impair memory function, causing more difficulty in school. As if alcohol abuse wasn’t bad enough, teenagers are more likely to introduce other substances into their lives alongside binge drinking, such as marijuana. If drinking begins at a young age, an individual is more likely to develop a dependency, leading to greater emotional problems and even attempted suicide and early school drop outs.
Nearly 2,000 victims under 21 years of age are killed every year in car accidents due to underage drinking. In fact, almost half of all violent teen deaths are attributed to alcohol abuse.
As parents, it’s up to us to assure our youth remains drug and alcohol-free. Even though you may think the occasional drink may not hurt your teen, the facts say otherwise. Let’s continue to do everything we can to make sure our children grow up safe, healthy, and sober!