March 30, 2011 – Notes from APPLAUDD: A Prevention Program Learning About Underage Drinking & Drugs, Session #4, in addition to the powerpoint slide notes provided.
What is new about underage drinking these days? For one thing, we have lots of new research that our parents didn’t have about alcohol and its effects on adolescents.
Many adults think, “what’s the big deal? We did it, and we survived just fine!” The big deal is that we know more now than our parents did. Just like we do about cigarettes. So we need to do something about that – when you know better, you can do better.
We now know that alcohol impairs permanent memory in kids. While high school courses generally test students often, thus calling on their short term memory, college courses do not. In college, and on the SAT, it is permanent or long term memory that is required to do well. We also know that teens do not feel impairment as quickly as adults drinking the same amount, they do not feel the sedative effects that adults do, and their judgment around choices and consequences erodes more quickly after even small amounts of alcohol. The ability to choose to drink in moderation is much greater in adults than in teens.
The number of teens grade 9-12 who are drinking regularly increased by 11% from 2008 to 2009, research shows.
Effective prevention revolves around decreasing risk factors and increasing protective factors. As parents, we have done that since they were born, protecting our children from germs, falls, malnutrition. The desire to protect comes naturally, but we sometimes aren’t sure how best to do it.
Many parents find it hard to talk to their teens. Adolescents are trying to prove to themselves that they are all grown up. They want to take care of their own probems, so they put up barriers. So we figure, OK, it’s time we giv them more space. It’s easy for us to feel that there is nothing we can do to make a difference.
But, as soon as they know you’re not watching, teens have their ticket to ride. They are watching you very closely to see what boundaries you are going to set, how much they can get away with, what your expectations are. We need to see the barriers they set for what they are – developmentally necessary and normal, but not a sign that teens really can take care of all of their own problems, not an indication that they do not need involved and supportive parents to guide them. Teens are highly responsive to their perception of your disapproval. It is critical to clearly communicate your expectations to them.
It’s worthwhile to postpone drinking as long as possible, because of the high correlation of age of initiation (age when a child begins to drink) with the likelihood of becoming alcohol-dependent at some point, probably sooner rather than later in life.
Can children drink responsibly? Turkey is the only European country that has less of a problem with underage binge drinking than the US does, according to the World Health Organization (the UN of prevention). While the European approach to teaching kids to drink moderately may have worked in the 50’s, with today’s constant bombarding of children with media messages, marketing of fruit-flavored alcoholic beverages and pervasive glamorization of both social and binge drinking, today it has resulted in a generation of young Eur0peans who binge drink (ie, get drunk) more than American youth.
When the US raised the drinking age from 18 to 21, alcohol-related fatalities in that age group dropped 60%. It was originally dropped in response to the Vietnam War draft, which applied to all over 18. People thought, how can we send them to war but not let them drink? Also at that time, we didn’t have the research on brain development and how adolescents metabolize alcohol differently than adults to support the higher age that we do now.
There is an enormous amount of new brain development from adolescence to age 25. The brain develops back to front. The last part to finish developing is the part that helps us understand the consequences of our actions and how to plan ahead. The amygdala is the center of emotional development, and it controls our hormones during puberty.
Teenagers need 9 ½ to 10 hours of sleep. If your teen is getting a lot less or a lot more than that, look into why.
When a child has an increased risk for substance abuse or addiction, whether due to genetic predisposition or environmental factors, it means that the steps you take and things you do and say to help your child are even more important.
Social Host Liability - How can parents protect themselves from social host liability? Don’t serve alcohol to anyone under 21. Don’t allow anyone under 21 to possess or consume alcohol on your property. Make your rules and expectations clear to all guests.
Even if your child has a party while you are away that you do not know about, you can pay the consequences. Because the law applies to those under 21, as well. So while you may not be found liable, in terms of intention, you child still can be. And you can be found vicariously responsible to pay for all damages incurred that your children are found responsible for under age 21.
If a social host is found guilty criminally, the door opens very fast for multi-million dollar civil suits, which are easy to prosecute once criminal guilt has been established. The amount of these suits may often exceed the extent of your home insurance, and ultimately, your ability to pay.
Carefully consider your responsibility when you host a social event that includes anyone under age 21. Both your responsibility and liability are greater than most people think. Large teen parties can escalate out of control quickly.
Action Plan: Talk, talk, talk.
- Anti-Drug Messages
- Monitor whereabouts
- Be supportive
- Set rules & enforce
- Be flexible for special occasions
- Be good role models
- Have family dinners
- Medication disposal, monitor doses
- Short, frequent conversations
- Be compassionate
- Build self-esteem
- Outlets for stress
- Increase developmental assets
- Online resources
- Join local coalition or parent organizations