The Life Or Death Crime of Underage Drinking

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Underage drinking is something society looks down on, and for good reason. The brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. That doesn’t mean we should necessarily raise the drinking age, but it certainly means that allowing the brain to develop as much as possible before people introduce intoxicants into their bodies is optimal. Teenagers are at a greater chance of death under the influence of intoxicants than adult addicts because they have less resources and there is more shame and more obstacles to treatment than there are for adults. In order to get help an adolescent would likely have to speak to their parents about their addiction and for a teenager, building up the courage to talk to their parents about the fact that they have developed a dangerous addiction can be intimidating enough to never ask for the help they so desperately need.

The First Step is Opening A Dialogue

The first step in dealing with a problem is to talk about it. This is why it is so powerful when an addict first asks for help or admits that they have a problem. Starting a conversation about the dangers of underage drinking is the first step to fixing the problem. The fact that adolescents consume so much alcohol in this day and age may seem like it isn’t a problem, especially if you aren’t a parent or family member of a teen, but underage drinking affects everyone in Florida and throughout the country, not just the family members of the addicted adolescents, but the rest of the community as well.  Each year thousands of kids, not even always limited to adolescents, wind up going through some kind of alcohol intoxicated car wreck that they themselves are responsible for. The car accident may or may not wind up killing them, but even if it doesn’t, these incidents often end up killing someone else, either someone in the other car, a pedestrian, or a cyclist. If no one dies, this sort of accident often lands people in the hospital with serious injuries. Some folks chalk teenage drinking up to a typical adolescent rebellion, a phase during which teens act a little recklessly, but simple rebellion doesn’t usually kill people by the hundreds and thousands every year. Indeed, we have a real problem when society takes this issue about as seriously as teenagers themselves do. It is this sort of turning of the head away from such a crisis that encourages the deadly culture of fraternities or sororities, or the reason kids start drinking at earlier ages every year.  


What’s The Solution?

The only way to truly solve this very serious problem in our society is to first start talking about it like it is a problem and second to start educating both adults and children more thoroughly. We must stop telling people to “Just Say No.” and realize that the problem of underage drinking is linked to adolescent addiction to alcohol in which it is not possible to simply say no because addiction is a disease, not a choice.

Why are these kids drinking to begin with? Probably the first drink was a rebellion, but what about the next?  We need to think with our empathy instead of thinking about this as a simple phase that kids are going through. They are establishing real patterns of addiction that will likely last a lifetime if they are not treated and redirected. When kids begin experimenting with drugs or alcohol early they are more likely to start consuming higher dosages or more substantial amounts of the intoxicant and venture further to more potent substances. This isn’t because they are acting out of rebellion, it is for the same reason any addict graduates to a more potent substance, because the weaker one isn’t feeding their addiction enough. They are not receiving the benefits of their substance as it is.

Adolescents must be treated with honesty and empathy. Disregarding their humanity while trying to help them will only push them away. In order to prevent underage drinking teens need to better understand the ins and outs of chemical dependence. We must teach them the way in which alcohol takes over a body, how it creates chaos in an addict’s life and the lives of those around them. They also need to know the legal ramifications for underatge drinking before they are 21 years old and where to get help if they need it. Most of all they need to know they won’t be penalized for asking for help.  

It can be hard to break through the barriers that adolescence sets up. Everyone puts up those walls in some form at that age – it is a natural instinct to distance oneself from the adults in your life as a teenager so that soon you can venture out on your own with confidence. Those walls will almost always be there at that age, but it is important that we don’t reinforce them with a power struggle.

Don’t let your pride or need for domination get in the way of helping the teen in your life who is drinking. . These kids are not too young to understand the stigma around addiction. That and the fear of may happen to them if they come forward with an addiction may keep them silent just long enough for it to ruin their lives. If your teenager is drinking the best thing you can do is convince them that you love them no matter what, and that you will not ever abandon them, that you want them to get help. If you yourself have suffered from an addiction then talk to them about it. Tell them how you’ve dealt with your own struggles and show them that they are not alone. Most importantly, if you are suffering from an addiction to alcohol or drugs yourself, get help now. You cannot help your teen if you are doing the very thing you are trying to talk them out of.


Substance Abuse Treatment: Florida Residential Detox at South Florida Rehab Centers

You can get help for addiction at 1st Step Behavioral Health. Our South Florida rehab centers offer medical detox to help a person get sober, as well as therapeutic behavioral therapy during rehab to teach proper life skills that can help a person maintain their sobriety in the real world after they leave the facility.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.