“Everyone drinks, it’s not a big deal!”
You’ve probably heard this from your friends - that drinking alcohol is fine… that it’s safe. The reality is, if you’re under twenty-one, it’s illegal and it’s damaging.
Did you know teens aged 12-20 drink almost 20% of the alcohol consumed in the United States. That’s over 10.8 million underage drinkers1!
You might think adults are just trying to ruin your good time but age restrictions are imposed for a reason. The adolescent brain is still maturing until around age 25 and drinking during this period can lead to lifelong damage in learning, memory, motor skills, and coordination2. If that isn’t scary enough, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), youth who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who began drinking after age 213.
Also, did you know that drinking is the number one cause of death among youth under 214?
With all of these catastrophic negatives, it really makes me wonder why any teen would still drink, but I understand that peer pressure can be hard to overcome. That’s why I’m writing this today. If you’re a teen thinking about drinking, I’m hoping to you to convince you to abstain, and to show you how, even in the face of peer pressure, saying no can be the coolest thing to do.
Here’s some reasons to stay sober:
- Drinking accounts for more than 150,000 emergency room visits by youth each year5.
- Alcohol abuse damages the heart, liver, and pancreas, while also increasing the risk of developing dementia and cancer6.
- Teens who use alcohol are more likely to develop mental illnesses such as depression and psychosis as adults7.
- Suicide attempts are three to four times greater in heavy adolescent drinkers than regular teens8.
- Alcohol addiction often leads to drug addiction, and studies show that 67% of teens who drink before age 15 will go on to use illicit drugs9.
Saying “No” & keeping your cool:
- Let people see that you’re already having fun without a drink. This will prevent them from asking you again, and maybe even show others that they don’t need alcohol to have a good time.
- Stay calm. By simply saying “I’m not really into that, but you do what you feel is right,” you’re letting people know that you respect your choices, but that it’s not for you.
- Put something else in your cup. Having something in your hand will make you feel less awkward, and people will no longer ask you, “why aren’t you drinking?”
- Explain the danger of drinking alcohol to your friends. If they understand the hazard it poses, they either also won’t drink, or at the bare minimum, they’ll realize why you won’t.
- Just be honest and confident and say no. If they’re really your friend, they’ll appreciate your sincerity.
As we kick off summer in New York, please practice safe drinking behaviors if you’re over 21, and if you’re under 21, take a stand against alcohol & have a sober summer!
From NY SADD: As a reminder NY SADD has two opportunities right now for students and chapters to earn money!!
- Check out the NIAAA Video Challenge, closing on 6/30/21. Use Jessica's post as inspiration to create a short video to help counter misconceptions about alcohol and its effects, or address concerns that high schoolers have about alcohol misuse, and offer messages that counter the expectations and motivations behind why teens drink
- Start a Watch Party of our new theatrical performance, "I Did What?" and you can earn a $50 gift card + SADD swag! Fill out this form to get started OR check out the guide on the classroom here.
Jessica Guo is a Junior at Ward Melville High School on Long Island. She has been an intern at the Weill Cornell Medical College and a student researcher with SUNY Old Westbury's Neuroscience Research Institute, publishing an abstract on Parkinson's Disease in Clinical Depression in 2020. She's looking forward to taking on more roles within SADD.
- Sommers, A. R., & Sundararaman, R. (2010). Alcohol use among youth. In Underage Drinking: Examining and Preventing Youth Use of Alcohol(pp. 9-22). New York: Nova Science.
- “How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain? Effects of Alcohol on Teenagers - Drug-Free World.” Foundation for a Drug-Free World, www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol/understanding-affects-on-body.html.
- “Age of Drinking Onset Predicts Future Alcohol Abuse and Dependence.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.niaaa.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/age-drinking-onset-predicts-....
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (U.S.). (2011). Beyond hangovers: Understanding alcohol’s impact your health. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- N., Jelena. (2019)“Teens and Alcohol - 8 Reasons Why Underage Drinking Is Dangerous.” Helping Students, Families, and Individuals Grow - Nobel Coaching & Tutoring, Jelena N. Https://Nobelcoaching.com/Wp-Content/Uploads/2017/12/Nobel-Coaching-and-Tutoring-Logo.png, nobelcoaching.com/teens-and-alcohol/.
- Shield, Kevin, et al. (2013)“Focus On: Chronic Diseases and Conditions Related to Alcohol Use.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arcr352/155-173.htm.
- Kushner, et al. (2005) “Follow-up Study of Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol Dependence in Comorbid Alcoholism Treatment Patients.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16131851/.
- Behavior – Parents Empowered, parentsempowered.org/why/behavior/.
- Addiction – Parents Empowered, parentsempowered.org/why/addiction/.