The danger alcohol poses to teenage girls

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

During adolescence, a girl's body is undergoing many significant hormonal changes, physical changes and changes in brain development. Parents may notice that their daughters are spending more time with friends, being more evasive about what they are doing and with whom they are spending their time. Doing this allows them to develop their own identity and independence.

While parents need to give their children space in allowing them to develop their identity and independence, there is also a fine line in giving them too much space. Teens should be allowed to have more independence, but not enough to place them in jeopardy.

In the past year, 7.2 million adolescents drank at least once, and 2.7 million teens drank alcohol about once a month or more. The average age for when girls try alcohol is 13; boys first try alcohol at 11 years of age.

While many teens see alcohol use as a way to have fun at parties or to fit in with their peers, there are more serious consequences associated with drinking for teenagers. Aside from the fact that underage drinking is illegal, it poses a high risk to the teen and those around the teen.

Introducing the brain to alcohol during adolescence can interrupt key processes of brain development. Alcohol slows down the body and mind, impairs coordination, slows reaction time, and impairs vision, clear thinking and judgment. It can be associated with decreases in school work and problems with conduct.

One of the leading causes of death among youth 15-20 is motor vehicle crashes involving alcohol. Drivers between 16-20 years old who have alcohol in their system are involved in twice as many fatal crashes than drivers 21 and older.

Drinking can also make a girl more vulnerable to sexual assault and/or unprotected sex. Many teen girls think they will not engage in hazardous activities, but alcohol can impair judgment to the point that she may not realize she is placing herself in a dangerous situation.

Alcohol use can also interact with, and intensify, conditions such as stress and depression. Stress and depression are key factors in suicide, the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 14-25.

However, using these statistics when talking to your daughter about alcohol may not be the most effective way to reach her. Most young teens are aware that many people drink without problems, so it is important to discuss the consequences of alcohol use without overstating the case. Explain to your daughter the reasons why you want her to avoid alcohol, clearly stating your own expectations and establishing consequences for breaking the rules. Appeal to her own self-respect as a way to dissuade her from drinking.

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