The last thing you want to hear as a parent is that your child’s life is in danger. And getting this news from a policeman in the early hours of the morning is possibly one of the least desirable ways to hear it.
While this type of thing may sound like something that “only happens to someone else,” because underage drinking is becoming more prevalent each day, this situation happens more commonly than you think.
When Tragedy Becomes Reality
Ryleigh Payton, your typical 15 year old girl, was at a sleepover with some friends when things took a turn for the worse. Ryleigh’s mother received a Facebook message at 1 AM reporting that her daughter was passed out somewhere.
Ryleigh was eventually found and brought home unconcious to her mother then sent directly to the hospital by ambulance. What followed were 14 long hours of Narcane doses, hospital transfers, and eventually intubation due to lung failure.
At the party, Ryleigh had been with a group of teens, obviously drinking. Once Ryleigh started showing signs that she was ill, her friends became nervous and decided to abandon her rather than risk getting in trouble. Luckily for Ryleigh, one girl stayed to call for help. This decision ended up saving her life.
The Truth About Underaged Drinking
Although Ryleigh’s situation was definitely a nightmare, not all teens are lucky enough to come away from incidents like this with their lives. Alcohol is the most common abused substance among youth in the United States, and it poses risks to the health and safety of everyone involved. (1)
Underaged drinking is a more prevalent issue than most people believe. About 33% of teens have had at least one drink of alcohol before age 15. And by age 18 this number doubles to about 60%. (1)
However, the biggest danger with underaged drinking is that it most commonly becomes binge drinking. Adults do tend to drink more frequently than youth, but youth will almost always drink more. In fact, almost 90% of alcohol consumed by youth is done by binge drinking. (1)
Methods Of Prevention
Underaged drinking is not only dangerous for health and safety reasons, but its effects can extend into many aspects of a young person’s life. It can impair judgement, lead to sexual assault, act as a gateway to other substance abuse, affect performance in school, interfere with brain development, and increase the risk of alcohol problems later in life.
Even with as many precautions in place as possible, any youth may still be at risk for substance abuse. However, having these methods in place is the best way to keep your children safe from the dangers of underaged drinking.
What You Can Do
- Talk with your kids frequently, even from a young age, about the dangers of alcohol.
- Set an example by drinking responsibly yourself, if you choose to drink.
- Spread the word to other parents about the dangers of substance abuse and encourage them to talk with their children as well.
- Get to know your kids’ friends so you know who your children are spending time with.
- Supervise or ensure that all parties are supervised to make sure there is no alcohol.
- Don’t make alcohol available to your children.
- Encourage your children to participate in lots of healthy and fun activities.
Assuming that your child is safe from substance abuse and underaged drinking is perhaps the worst decision you could make. Remember, 1 in 3 teens have had a drink before age 15! Do all you can to build trust with your children and warn them about the dangers of underaged drinking and what to do if the situation arises. It may just save someone’s life.
Written by Emilyn Gil