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05/13/2019 15:00

Substance use by age

Research displays that, underage drinking accounts for 11% of all of the alcohol use in the entire United States. Those who begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol early in age, have a higher chance of developing an alcohol use disorder. A study by Ken C. Winters shows that those who tried alcohol for the first time at 11-12 years of age, 7.2% were found to have an alcohol use disorder. Yet, out of those who waited to begin drinking until they reached 21 years of age, only 3.7% developed an alcohol use disorder within two years after beginning.

A human’s brain is a very complex subject. It takes many years to fully mature and before it has reached full maturity it can be immensely damaged. At age 11 or 12 the brain begins the common process of “pruning.” Pruning can be explained as the developing of the brain. The brain begins to take all of the systems that is not commonly using and replacing them with the one the individual is exhibiting often. Pruning also begins to shape ones decision-making. This process if very significant to substance use and can explain why age is so important. 

What does this all mean?

Youth need to be very careful giving into temptations like trying alcohol or drugs. Of course, these substances can be dangerous for all ages but the toll they take on the brain during the developmental stages can be detrimental. Alcohol does not only affect the brain in the moment, but in the future as well. Drinking can permanently disrupt teen’s moods making it harder for them to think clearly and move in a coordinated matter. Binge drinking has the same effect on a teen’s brain as getting a concussion.

Why is it important to delay alcohol consumption?

It is highly essential that alcohol consumption is to be delayed in teens due to brain developmental activity. However, there are other risks as well. According to the U.S Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration kids who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to become alcoholics. Those who begin using substances at a younger age are more likely to develop substance abuse issues when they are older.

What should one do to make sure their kid resists drinking?

Always keep an open channel for discussion with your children. This will enable conversation to flow and trust between you and your child. If you create an open environment your child will feel comfortable coming to you for guidance and help.

How common is it for teens to drink alcohol?

You may be thinking, there is no way my teen partakes in alcohol consumption. This could be true; maybe your son or daughter doesn’t drink. However, it is best to assume they do or are going to. With this assumption you can go ahead and take the necessary precautions just in case your teen is consuming alcohol behind your back. In just the year of 2018, 19% of high school seniors admitted to binge drinking. Although this amount may seem small, you never know if your child is part of that 19%. Better to be safe than sorry.

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