Underage drinking may be on the decline but there are still too many teenagers (and adults) binge drinking. All binge drinking behavior is dangerous, but for teens, it can be particularly devastating. During the teen years, our youth is just beginning to understand their independence and autonomy, and when alcohol becomes a factor in those decisions, DUI is not the only thing that can change lives.
The CDC reports that underage binge drinking is still occurring at a rate of one in six teenagers.
The scientific basis for drinking laws, or those that prevent underage drinking, relies on the understanding of brain development. Even though 18 is the age of majority, the brain still has several more years’ worth of development, the pruning, and growth of brain cells, in order to reach the age of maturity. Some researchers speculate brain development continues through our mid-20’s. Underage binge drinking clearly interrupts that process and can cause irreparable damage that is lifelong; more gray matter is pruned while less white matter develops, especially in areas of self-control and emotional development.
Not only are there the long-term “matter” effects of underage binge drinking, but the impulsive nature of teenagers and teenagers who are drinking lead to other crimes like DUI, sexual assault, property crimes and other violent or criminal acts.
To help keep up the good work with preventing underage binge drinking, parents are encouraged to have frank discussions about alcohol, drinking and binge drinking. Modeling appropriate behaviors as parents or adults and laying out expectations can have the biggest, most positive effect on keeping our youth safe from the temptations of binge drinking. The worst that can happen to a teenager who binge drinks isn’t a DUI and an ignition interlock requirement, but a lifelong memory of destroying lives due to any type of alcohol-encouraged behaviors.