Alcohol Use Disorder: Prevention Begins at Home

Underage Drinking May Lead to Alcohol Use Disorder

More and more teens are developing Alcohol Use Disorder.

Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? Peer pressure, curiosity, and an urge to rebel are common factors that can lead to underage drinking. And recently, as remote learning and social distancing have become the norm, teens have never had such easy access to alcohol stored within the home.

Sneaking a bottle of mom’s wine or a case of dad’s beer is just part of the teenage experience, right? As long as they are staying safe and not going anywhere, what harm can a few drinks cause for a teenager? 

Recent Studies about Alcohol Use Disorder Make the Answers Clear

The answer? Underage drinking is more harmful than you could ever imagine. According to recent studies by JAMA Network, experimentation with alcohol and drugs in teenage years is directly linked to an increased risk of developing alcohol use disorders later in life. 

While many parents worry about alcohol addiction developing during college years, these studies indicate that this concern is misguided – the time to prevent addiction is now, while your children are still under your own roof.

What are the Effects of Alcohol in the Home?

A man drinks a beer at home while a young girl watches in the foreground. Alcohol use disorder starts at home

The most common cause of underage drinking is early exposure to drunkenness at a young age. However, recent studies show that alcoholism and binge drinking have increased due to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. As families spend time together at home more often, the likelihood of parents drinking in front of their children increases.

Harmful Underage Drinking Habits Begin at Home

Is it illegal to drink in front of your child? No, and if done in moderation, it usually has no negative effect on the child. 

However, irresponsible behavior such as getting drunk in front of your child, or inadvertently allowing your child to take a sip of alcohol, can lead to harmful behavior patterns. The factors that influence underage drinking mostly begin right at home, but there are some outside factors that come into play as well.

Glorified Portrayal of Alcoholism in Popular Media

The glorification of alcoholism in popular media leads teens and adults alike to view alcohol as a fun and exciting substance – one might immediately think of parties, memories, and laughter. However, there are many negative effects of alcohol that are rarely brought to the forefront of our consciousness and are essential to the prevention message for teens. Drunk driving is one such consequence.

Alcoholism is a disease that can lead to broken relationships, unemployment, depression, domestic violence, memory loss, brain and liver damage, and severe sickness or death. In fact, alcohol is a leading contributor to death from injury, which is one of the most common causes of death for people below the age of 21.

Talking to Your Kids about Alcoholism

A father speaks to his daughter about alcohol use disorder

So, how do parents prevent their teens from developing alcohol use disorder? To set the tone, start off with a simple conversation about the detrimental effects of alcohol and underage drinking. Focus on any questions your kids have about alcohol use. 

If you are someone who drinks, use your experiences to shape the conversation around the importance of moderation and the negative effects of alcohol. Outline the physical and psychological damage which underage drinking causes, and provide them with the resources they need to become informed about the overall dangers of alcohol addiction.  Test your own use of alcohol with a quick quiz.

Parenting Tip:
Storing alcohol in a secure and out-of-reach location within the home is an effective way to cut off the temptation at the source.

Breaking Through the Temptation of Underage Drinking

Overall, the best way to prevent underage drinking is to confront the temptations to experiment with alcohol as they happen, not later on after the damage has been done. Don’t wait to have these conversations as you’re sending your child off to college – if they have been engaging in underage drinking already, they aren’t about to stop now. 

Make the message clear: Don’t risk your future for a quick moment of fun. Fun quickly fades as the harsh realities of alcoholism and alcohol use disorders set in.

Tackle Alcohol Use Disorder Head-On with Reality Tour

father and son in attendance at Reality Tour following along the presentation

If this feels like a task too large and too consequential to handle alone, consider attending a drug and alcohol prevention program with your child, such as Reality Tour. Reality Tour is an evidence-based program that uses real-life scenarios to educate families about the dangers of substance abuse. 

It’s the perfect program for parents who are trying to prevent their child or teen from experimenting with alcohol and other drugs. To see if there are any upcoming programs near you, check out the locations page on the Reality Tour website. If there are no tours near you, be the person who gets Reality Tour started in your community.  

And while you’re there, be sure to check out the expansive collection of educational resources — the alcohol section on the website’s Glossary of Drugs is a perfect place to start the conversation with your child!

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Norma Norris

Norma Norris, Reality Tour developer and Executive Director of CANDLE, Inc., has been a civic leader throughout the years. Norma and her husband Charles raised their three sons in Butler, PA. In an effort to preserve the integrity of her community when heroin first appeared in early 2000, Norma created the parent/child drug prevention program called Reality Tour.

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