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

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Why do Teens Decide to Start Drinking

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.