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St. Joseph Youth Alliance
5223 Mitchell Avenue
St. Joseph, MO 64507
(816) 232-0050

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ADHD 2Experts say that around 80 percent of teens experiment with alcohol before they finish high school. Since drinking is illegal for them and contrary to the wishes of most parents why do so many teens take the chance? Here are some common reasons why teens decide to start drinking.

Most of the explanations behind teen experimentation with alcohol have to do with handling pressure. Profound pressure added to immature stress management can lead to a teen’s making the choice to use alcohol. Teens lack the skill set to handle stress well, yet they are confronted with pressures from any number of directions.

To begin with, peers and friends begin to replace parents and family as primary influences during the teen years. Teens who imagine that drinking is somehow linked to acceptance find it hard to resist the need to fit in. Friends exert more influence during adolescence than at any other period of life.

Some kind of major change in a teen’s life can trigger experimentation with alcohol. A move, for example, is a change and change equals stress. Whether the teen moves to a new state, a new city or just a new school, the anxiety of change is present. When they don’t know how else to handle anxiety, alcohol can seem like an escape from a difficult reality.

High school students today are getting the message that it is not enough to go to class and make good grades. They feel they are expected to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities as well. Most teens sense that they are expected to excel in every endeavor at the same time that they feel they are being spread too thin. These kinds of unrealistic expectations, whether real or imagined, are behind at least some of the drinking that goes on in high school.  Other stress-inducing problems like bullying have also escalated in recent years.

Sometimes teens start drinking not because of what is going on at school, but because of what is going on at home. Parental conflict and disharmony in the family can produce anxiety and deep tension for teens that are old enough to understand some of the dynamics and foresee some of the potential outcomes. Teens with troubled homes are several times more likely to experiment with drinking.

Teens may turn to alcohol to cope with depression, anxiety or stress. Other times, teens see alcohol as a fun way to behave like an adult. The way drinking is portrayed in the media and on social networking sites feeds this sort of misapprehension about alcohol use.

Some stresses, such as expectations and family peace, can be controlled by parents but many cannot. What parents can do to reduce the likelihood that their teen will experiment with alcohol is to stay engaged and informed. Parents who know where their teens are and who they are with reduce the chances that their teen will find it convenient to make a risky decision like drinking.

BC Rocks was created to support parents in steering teens away from alcohol. Those who participate in the BC Rocks sign-up lend themselves to the community effort to keep underage drinking from happening.

The latest fashions, the hippest music, the newest expressions – teens keep up with it all. YouTube has become a fast-track for sharing cutting edge information among teens. While much of YouTube sharing is relatively harmless, it’s also a place where bad ideas go viral. A prime example of this is the popularity of
videos showing kids how to inhale, or smoke, alcohol.

Smoking Alcohol 1Smoking alcohol sounds impossible but, essentially, instead of swallowing it, teens are encouraged to breathe it in. The YouTube videos with over a million hits show viewers how to pour a small amount of hard liquor into an empty two liter soda bottle and then pump the bottle full of air. Viewers are then encouraged to inhale the alcohol vapor for a practically instantaneous buzz.

These videos are spreading all sorts of misinformation like “smoking alcohol under age 21 years is not illegal”, “no one will be able to smell alcohol on your breath” and “smoking alcohol has fewer calories than drinking”. Every one of those claims is false.

For starters, parents and police officers will be able to smell alcohol on the breath because when a person smokes alcohol it goes directly into the lungs. If it’s in your lungs, it’s on your breath. But that is only lie number one.

When a person drinks alcohol there is a metabolization process that takes around 20 minutes before the alcohol fully enters the bloodstream. Inhaling alcohol fumes bypasses that slow process and shoots the alcohol more quickly into the bloodstream. The toxic alcohol fumes are sent almost directly to the
brain, and it gets there through the bloodstream. If it’s in your blood, it will show up on a blood test. Lie number two.

Lie number three is the claim that smoking alcohol has fewer calories. Doctors tell us that alcohol in the bloodstream doesn’t care how it got there. Smoke it or drink it – alcohol has calories.

The fourth lie is that smoking alcohol before you turn 21 is legal. This is false. Consuming alcohol in any way before age 21 is against the law.

Teens are lured in by the thrill of feeling drunk instantly, but the dangers of alcohol are also sped up. Normally, when a person over-drinks their body uses several built-in protections. The person gets sleepy or passes out – this keeps them from drinking more. Sometimes the body deals with too much
alcohol by throwing up. But when alcohol is inhaled all of these self-protective mechanisms are bypassed. That means that alcohol poisoning can happen much faster.

It doesn’t take much alcohol to do grave harm when teens are breathing in the fumes. This highlights the importance of knowing that when your teen is at another person’s house there is no alcohol available and there is plenty of adult supervision.

BC Rocks is one way parents in Buchanan County can work together to create a safer environment for teens. By signing a pledge to make your home alcohol-safe and well-supervised you give other parents peace of mind. You also protect teens from their own trendiness.

Many will recognize the acronym MADD as the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The group MADD 1 is actively involved in educating teens and parents about the dangers of underage drinking and, as their name suggests, grew out of the grief from losing a child to an alcohol-related traffic fatality. But MADD is
behind research which shows that kids who drink before age 21 face many more risks than drunk driving.

The organization, together with Nationwide Insurance, sponsored examination of data from the National Traffic and Highway Safety Transportation Administration, the FBI and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which had been collected in 2010. The study found that 68 percent of underage drinking-related deaths do not happen on the highway. That’s right, underage drinking does raise the chances that a young person will be injured or killed in an automobile accident, but according to the research, 32 percent of the deaths were traffic fatalities but many more dangers took young lives.

The vast majority of alcohol-related deaths among minors weren’t from car crashes; they were murders (30 percent), suicide (14 percent), alcohol poisoning (9 percent) and other (15 percent).

In 2011 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 25 percent of adolescent’s ages 12 – 20 had been drinking during the month prior. Some of those kids were able to buy their alcohol illegally. The astonishing fact was that 21.4 percent of these minors didn’t lie to buy alcohol; they simply got it from an adult in their life. Many times it was a parent or guardian who purchased the alcohol for the young person.

Parents or adults who provide alcohol to kids and then keep them from driving need to be aware of the dangers still involved with underage drinking. Parents need to do more than take the car keys away if they think their kids are drinking. For starters, parents should never provide underage children with alcohol. As the MADD report shows, drunk driving is just one of many deadly risks associated with underage drinking.

The two strongest influences on young people come from peers and parents. Parents may think that kids only listen to their friends, but that is not the case. Even teens that have been drinking and are about to head off to college can be influenced by a parent who takes the time to sit down with them and explain the various dangers associated with drinking. MADD offers parents a handbook entitled Power of Parents to help moms and dads have these all-important conversations.

In this area, BC Rocks is a strategy to protect underage kids from exposure to alcohol. Parents who sign up for BC Rocks let others know that their home is one where kids will not be offered alcohol. Underage drinking is not inevitable. The risks are too many and too great for parents to give up without trying. Homes that agree not to offer alcohol to minors are one way to keep teens safe from the dangers that can be associated with underage drinking.

The problem of underage drinking was once a male-dominated problem. Boys once outranked girls when it came to experimenting with alcohol before age 21. Not so much anymore. Today there is a lot more parity between the sexes when it comes to underage drinking.

ADHD 1Today more than half of all kids ages 12 – 20, boys and girls alike, report having tried alcohol. You might be aware that underage drinking is an issue, but just how far underage these kids are may surprise you. According to reports, boys are trying out alcohol as early as age 11 and girls are not far behind, having their first drinking experiences around age 13. There are a host of reasons why this is dangerous, but perhaps one of the greatest is that kids who start drinking by age 14 face a six-fold higher chance of becoming alcohol-addicted as adults.

There are young people who face higher risks for drinking than others. Race is one risk factor with Native American and Alaskan Indian children facing a greater chance of future alcohol addiction compared to children of other races. Other risk factors for alcohol-related problems include the following:

Gender: Males are more likely than females to become addicted to alcohol. While young men often drink in response to peer pressure, young women usually drink in response to family problems.

Family History: If a close family member has an alcohol addiction, then a child faces a four times greater risk of becoming addicted themselves compared to youths without a family history.

Environment: The risk for alcohol abuse and addiction increases in measure with how easy it is for a kid to get alcohol. If alcohol is readily available in the home or through friends who approve, the risks increase proportionally.

Statistics from 2009 show that close to 60 percent of boys over the age of 12 are currently consuming alcohol. Close to 50 percent of over 12 year old girls are currently drinking, according to the same report. But in the youngest section of that demographic, the 12 – 17 year olds, boys and girls are drinking at practically the same rate; 15 percent and 14 percent respectively. Young boys and girls are trying alcohol and putting themselves at risk for all sorts of other problems.

Underage drinkers face an increased risk for becoming depressed or anxious, being involved in a violent crime (often as the victim), having numerous sexual partners and engaging in unprotected sex. Kids who don’t think they will be part of the group who makes unwise choices after drinking need to know that among 15 – 20 year olds, one-third of all driving deaths involves alcohol and alcohol is involved in nearly half of the drownings.

BC Rocks is a local effort to help parents make sure that their teen is socializing in an adult-supervised, alcohol-free environment. By participating in BC Rocks parents are taking a stand against underage drinking and doing what they can to minimize young people’s exposure to alcohol. Delaying alcohol exposure can reduce many of the risks associated with underage drinking for boys and girls alike.