June 17, 2021

Alcohol and Young Adults

Speaking of high risk behavior…..how about young adults and alcohol. Maybe you’re a bit weary, having held the line on teens and drinking through high school and maybe even middle school.  By high school graduation, you might be thinking, what’s the point?  When they leave they’re going to be drinking anyway no matter what the drinking age.  Besides, they’re young ADULTS.
But here are some facts to renew you for the last mile of your parenting journey where kids and alcohol are concerned. They are sobering and even downright chilling. 

Life, Health, Suicide

  • 1,700 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.
  • 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol.
  • More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem, and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of students indicate that they tried to commit suicide within the past year due to drinking or drug use.

Maybe you’ve decided it’s okay if they don’t drive….but it doesn’t always work that way.

  • 2.1 million students between the ages of 18 and 24 drove under the influence of alcohol last year. 

What About Alcohol and Sex?

  • More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
  • 400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 had unprotected sex and more than 100,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex.

Alcohol Affects their Education

  • About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.

What would it mean if your kid got arrested?

  • About 11 percent of college student drinkers report that they have damaged property while under the influence of alcohol.
  • More than 25 percent of administrators from schools with relatively low drinking levels and over 50 percent from schools with high drinking levels say their campuses have a “moderate” or “major” problem with alcohol-related property damage.
  • About 5 percent of 4-year college students are involved with the police or campus security as a result of their drinking and an estimated 110,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are arrested for an alcohol-related violation such as public drunkenness or driving under the influence.

College Drinking can be the Start of Lifelong Problems

  • 31 percent of college students met criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse and 6 percent for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence in the past 12 months, according to questionnaire-based self-reports about their drinking.

So what are you supposed to do about all this?  

Every reliable authority on the subject of teens and alcohol states that nearly 75% of kids cite their parents as the primary influence in their decisions about whether they drink alcohol or not. 
To influence them you need to communicate.  That’s hard for most of us.  We might enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.  Are we being hypocritical when we tell them no alcohol at home until they are 21?
In our family, alcohol use is a big issue.  Shake any branch of our family tree and down will fall a problem drinker, Mike’s Hard Lemonade in hand.  So this is what I’ve told my kids:
  • Genetics has a big influence on whether alcohol becomes a problem for you and, sorry to say, you are at a big disadvantage there.
  • Every year you hold out means that the performance-compromised kids around you are a little bit older, a little bit more mature. An inebriated 21-year-old might make slightly better decisions than a drunk 17-year-old.  
  • Before you make that decision to drink, observe the kids who are drinking.  What are they doing?  What do you think of them?  Is that who you want to be?
  • I will go anywhere, anytime, wear any disguise, to bring you home. I will doze on the couch, cellphone in hand til you are safely home. When you are away at school, find a buddy who will do the same.
At home, we’ll stick to the law…meaning no drinking before age 21.  And then, only in moderation.
How’s this approach working?  With one half-way through college and one going next year, so far so good.  Having seen adult family members fall from the heights of success has brought the message home, too.
It’s a big topic that we need to open up in conversation. Beneath the glamorous and outwardly benign veneer of social drinking is a hairy monster.  Those of us who have seen it up close know that every kid who leaves home is walking into the belly of the beast.  What have you done to equip them?  What has worked? What hasn’t?  
If you can, direct open-minded kids to a great quick read.
For teens try this link at kidshealth.org   
If you’d like more information, here’s a great source from the Federal Government’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Acoholism

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