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Alcohol is never safe for teenagers

Health Point


October 06, 2011
Dear Jeff and Debra, My husband and I have come to an impasse on the issue of our teenage son's drinking.

My husband doesn't see drinking as a problem, which has caused many arguments. I have even thought about divorce. I truly believe my husband's attitude endangers my son's safety.

My husband reasons drinking is not a big deal as long as our son doesn't drink and drive. Our son calls his father to pick him up after he's been drinking. He's promised to never allow a drunk buddy to drive him home. But I think it is only a matter of time before our son hops into a car with a drunken friend behind the wheel.

Kids are kids and if they decide they want to get something to eat or go to another friend's house, they're not going to call a parent to drive them.

My husband also believes we should be grateful our son isn't on drugs. He says we need to compromise. Beer, he says, is harmless compared to crack or ecstasy. I don't think it is an either/or issue. I worry the drinking will lead to drugs and cigarettes.

--A.S. from G.P.

Dear A.S.:

The first thing we need to clear up is alcohol is a drug. And it's an illegal drug for anyone under the age of 21.

It is mood-altering and addictive and 10 million teens use alcohol regularly. Half of all underage drinkers are binge drinkers.

Alcohol is not safe and drinking leads to more problems than just car accidents. It impairs our children's ability to make good decisions. Teens who drink do things they wouldn't do sober. Sexual activity, unprotected sex, violent behavior, criminal activity, date rape and experimentation with other illicit drugs, are just a few examples. Drinking can also lead to depression, low self-esteem, loss of interest in school activities and sports and changes in mood and attitude.

The younger children are when they start drinking, the more likely they'll become alcoholics. Teens who begin drinking at age 15 have a 40 percent chance of becoming alcoholics at some point in their lives.

Using alcohol at age 17 leads to a 24.5 percent chance of becoming alcoholic. Waiting until age 21 drops the probability down to 10 percent. A family history of alcoholism increases these risks.

Zero tolerance is the only acceptable policy when it comes to children and alcohol Ė and the policy works when both parents learn how to properly enforce the rules. Your husband needs education before he'll become a team player. Start by learning about alcohol and the adolescent brain. Visit American Psychological Association at apa.org/moni

tor/jun01/teendrink.html. We guarantee this information will make any parent think long and hard about alcohol and their child.

Professional interventionists Jeff Jay and Debra Jay of Grosse Pointe Farms are the authors of, "Love First: A New Approach to Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction." Debra Jay is the co-author of, "Aging and Addiction." They can be reached at (313) 882-6921 or lovefirst.net.

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Jeff Jay and Debra Jay are the authors of "Love First: A New Approach to Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction," and Debra Jay is the author of "No More Letting Go: The Spirituality of Taking Action Against Alcoholism and Drug Addiction." Jeff and Debra Jay are professional interventionists who live in Grosse Pointe Farms. They may be contacted with your questions at (313) 882-6921 or at lovefirst.net.
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