By Isabel Warner
Regular drinking is a bad habit. Alcohol damages internal organs and increases the risk of developing cancer and dementia. The depressant nature of alcohol may cause a person to engage in risky or illegal activities or carry out physical or sexual assault. Significant cognitive and learning damage is caused when alcohol is consumed before age 21, at which point brain development is completed. Most teenagers know this, and yet many abuse alcohol.
If teenagers know that alcohol is dangerous, then why is teen alcoholism an issue? There are many reasons why a teenager would choose to drink: to satisfy curiosity, to feel good, to relieve peer pressure, or to cope with negative emotions and/or mental illness. Mental health issues, especially in teens, have been on the rise for decades, and unfortunately, many teenagers turn to alcohol and drugs as an outlet for their emotions. Although it is initially a choice, after a few occasions, it may not seem that way.
It’s probably true that “just say no” is the most effective way to avoid alcohol. Saying no to someone, especially when they are offering alcohol, can be a challenge. One reason may be that you don’t want to be the one to reject their offer, or that a small drink seems like a harmless idea in the moment.
We need to lessen the appeal of alcohol by helping teenagers with mental health issues. This would not only prevent the developmental damage caused by underage substance use, but also improve the person’s daily life. If we each learn how to support our peers that are struggling with alcohol and/or mental health issues, our school community will be a healthier place.