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What Cost Is Too High?

news_specialreportSanta Clarita cyclist's death raises questions about under-aged drinking

Excitement. Popularity. Escape. The reasons why teens feel compelled to drink are endless; however, their lives, and more importantly, the lives of others are not.

Last Saturday, a 20-year-old man with a prior driving under the influence conviction, hit three bicyclists, killing one. He was allegedly under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident.

The tragedy has raised questions; Where did he get the alcohol? Why was he drinking so young? How could this have been prevented?

The cold, hard truth is that many teens do have access to alcohol, and it affects them differently than it affects adults. Parents are charged with keeping their under-aged children sober and safe.

In fact, many parents are unaware that their children drink. Common signs that teens are drinking include: isolation, changes in friends, avoiding parents, anger, coming home late, changes in hygiene, and dropping grades.

"It's like taking candy from a baby. It's so easy to get," explained Certified Addiction Specialist, Cary Quashen, who runs ACTION Teen Support Network. "Alcohol is not an illegal drug, so they can get it anywhere. The availability of it is really why it's so dangerous."

Parents can be crucial in preventing teenage drinking. Adolescents are less likely to consume alcohol if their parents spend time with them and keep track of where they are, what they are doing, and who their friends are.

"When it comes to [preventing] any kind of abuse, it's got to start young. It's got to start at home," Cory explained. "The conversation isn't a two minute conversation once, but a ten minute conversation a hundred times."

Most of the time, parents who suspect their child is drinking are correct and should immediately seek professional counseling.

The consequences of drinking can be dire. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more child deaths occur each year due to alcohol than all illegal drugs combined.

Many kids who drink start young. In a study conducted by the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, researchers found that 52% of eighth graders and 80% of high school seniors have experimented with alcohol in some capacity.

One of the main concerns with under-age drinking is the accessibility of alcohol.

Among many other ways, adolescents can easily obtain alcohol be stealing from their home or by standing outside a 7-Eleven and asking someone to buy it for them. Many teens drink their parent's alcohol and then cleverly water it down in an attempt to avoid detection.

Because of the ease of obtaining alcohol, the number of DUIs has become an increasing concern. According to LoveToKnow, alcohol-related crashes kill someone every 22 minutes, making DUIs a factor in 50% of all highway deaths.

While driving under the influence is a major concern, there are numerous other dangers associated with alcohol abuse, especially among youth. Because the teenage brain is still developing, alcohol consumption can have much more devastating effects on children than adults.

According to the Teen Drug Abuse website, teens who drink are more likely to attempt suicide and engage in violent activities, and the younger the drinker, the greater the chance of addiction. Other risks include liver damage, some cancers, pancreatitis, dementia, and literal shrinkage of the brain.

Not only are the effects of alcohol dangerous, but they impact the body in as little as 5 to 10 minutes and can linger for hours.

While consuming alcohol may seem like an exhilarating idea at the time, the fact is that under-aged drinking can not only damage the teenage body, but can be fatal--not only for the drinker, but for innocent bystanders.