According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those between the ages of 12 and 20 drink 11% of the alcohol consumed in the U.S. Even though you might be underage, it’s (ahem) possible you’ve had a drink or two or that your friends might be dabbling in alcoholic refreshments before reaching the legal drinking age of 21. After all, 70% of teens have had at least one drink by the time they turn 18.
So what is the big deal? Why are parents and schools so uptight about underage drinking? As we know, sometimes, adults are so gripped by fear for our well-being, that they have a little trouble articulating what they actually mean.
Turns out there are real reasons to avoid alcohol. The effects of drinking can vary based on the amount an individual consumes, but here are some of the common risks:
1. It makes dangerous decisions seem like fun ideas. People who have been drinking are more likely to take dangerous chances like drinking and driving, resorting to violence, putting themselves at risk for sexual assault, or committing sex crimes themselves. All the while, they might be thinking “This is awesome!” Because alcohol slows down brain function and limits information-processing skills, drinkers have less of an ability to tell right from wrong, fun in the short term vs. total disaster tomorrow (or forever). You might make amazing decisions when you’re sober, but that doesn’t mean you’ll make the best calls when you’re wasted.
2. It can make you feel cool when you are actually embarrassing yourself. This follows from #1. Alcohol is a common relaxer, a “social lubricant” that people use to feel more comfortable when they are at parties or in other social situations. In addition to inhibiting decision-making, alcohol can also make it difficult to communicate, causing slurred speech and affecting hearing. While alcohol can cut down some social discomfort, getting drunk can lead to some serious social awkwardness.
3. Decisions you make under the influence can have lasting legal and social and social consequences. Whether you’re drinking regularly, deciding to drink and drive (only for a couple minutes!), or jumping in the pool topless at a house party this weekend, the outcomes can have negative impacts on your future. Is getting caught worth it? Are you willing to risk your reputation?
4. YouTube. And tumblr and Instagram…Beyond affecting your offline interactions and reputation, alcohol-influenced moments can live forever online. Remember your digital footprint, and avoid doing anything you’ll regret when someone has an iPhone camera rolling (which is pretty much always).
5. It makes you feel gross. Hangovers are no fun. They can cause headaches, and they can also be associated with dizziness, shakiness, throwing up, and rapid heart beats.
7. It can affect test scores. Because our brains continue developing into our early and mid twenties, research also shows that drinking underage can affect important brain function like memory in the short-term and the long-term. Not helpful for the upcoming SATs and ACTs.
So, rethinking your weekend plans? Tell us in the comments!