Tyler Oesterle, M.D., M.P.H.
Chemical Dependency Treatment
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Have you talked to your children about alcohol use?
Children are constantly challenged to decipher the messages they see and hear about alcohol, not only with the ads they see on TV, but also with social media, friends, billboards, clothing paraphernalia and more. The odds are they are receiving the message about alcohol.
But is the message truth or a lie? Is it the message you want them to have as children faced with making a big choice — deciding if it is OK to consume an alcoholic beverage?
There are benefits of having crucial conversations about alcohol use with children, according to statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Around 80% of teens feel that parents should have a say in whether they drink alcohol. Talking with children helps ensure they are receiving the facts and developing healthy refusal skills when faced with the decision to drink alcohol.
Here are some facts to review:
- More than 15 million people ages 12 and older have alcohol use disorder.
- An estimated 414,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 have alcohol use disorder.
- Alcohol contributes to about 18.5% of emergency department visits.
- An estimated 95,000 people ― approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women ― die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.
- Research has shown that people who drink excessively have a greater risk of liver disease, heart disease, depression, stroke and stomach bleeding, as well as cancers of the oral cavity, esophagus, larynx, pharynx, liver, colon and rectum.
- Research indicates that alcohol use during the teenage years can interfere with normal adolescent brain development and increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder. In addition, underage drinking contributes to a range of acute consequences, such as injuries, sexual assaults and alcohol overdoses, as well as deaths, including those from motor vehicle crashes.
- Alcohol-related problems cost America $249 billion in lost productivity, absenteeism, health care costs, crime and family problems.
Early intervention can prevent alcohol-related problems. Be alert to signs and symptoms that may indicate a problem with alcohol:
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies, and in personal appearance.
- Red eyes, slurred speech, problems with coordination and memory lapses.
- Difficulties or changes in relationships with friends, such as joining a new crowd.
- Declining grades and problems in school.
- Frequent mood changes and defensive behavior.
You also can help your children avoid alcohol problems by:
- Setting a good example with your alcohol use.
- Serving as positive role model in general.
- Not making alcohol available.
- Getting to know your children's friends.
- Talking openly with your children and having regular conversations about life in general.
- Letting your children know what behavior you expect, and what the consequences will be if he or she doesn't follow the rules.
- Connecting with other parents about sending clear messages about the importance of youth not drinking alcohol.
- Supervising all parties to ensure there is no alcohol.
- Encouraging your children to participate in healthy, fun activities that do not involve alcohol.
Caring adults in a children's lives have the power of influence. Talk with your children about the dangers of alcohol. It could save their lives.
Learn more about alcohol and other substance abuse on the Hometown Health blog.
Tyler Oesterle, M.D., is a chemical dependency physician at Fountain Centers in Albert Lea, Minnesota.