Drinking Dangers: 5 New Facts Your Teen Needs to Know Right Now

There has been some encouraging news about the ongoing effort to combat teen-age drinking. Government statistics show that more teens are heeding warnings about the dangers of alcohol abuse and since 1991 there has been a gradual decline in the age of first-time use of alcohol, frequency of use, and binge drinking. At the same time, health experts who study the risks of teen-age alcohol abuse continue to find important new evidence of alcohol's threat to adolescent mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Use these latest findings, published this month by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, to help convince your child to join the growing number of teens who abstain.

1. Alcohol harms brain growth. In a recent study comparing the brains of youth ages 14 to 21 who did and did not abuse alcohol, researchers found that the areas of the brain that handle memory and learning were about 10 percent smaller in drinkers than in those who did not drink. Similar results were found in areas of the brain that control reasoning and impulsivity. These alterations in brainpower may be irreversible.

2. Alcohol triggers assaults. In a recent survey of college-age teens, 696,000 students reported they were hit or assaulted by another student who had been drinking. Teens who drink heavily and frequently are also much more likely to be hit or slapped by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Not sure how to talk to your teen about alcohol? Watch this.

3. Alcohol is linked to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Teens represent more than half of all new cases of HIV/AIDS. Health experts attribute this alarming new statistic to the well-known correlations between teen-age alcohol abuse and unprotected sex.

4. Alcohol raises the cost of living. Economists calculate that every drink a teen consumes costs society a $1. This added financial burden represents the expenses caused by medical and legal costs for alcohol-related accidents, loss of work or school days, and unplanned pregnancies that together total a whopping $68 billion dollars a year.

5. Alcohol kills. While the tragic links between automobile-related deaths and under-age drinking are well known, almost half of alcohol-related deaths for teens don't involve a car. Inebriated teens have died from falls, guns, drowning, burns, alcohol poisoning, and other hazards.