Parents should talk to children about alcohol; study shows teens do listen

Two recent studies highlight how important it is for parent to talk with their teens about the risks of alcohol use, which leads to more than 4,500 deaths nationwide every year.

In the first study, Mothers Against Drunk Driving found that fewer than a third of alcohol-related deaths among 15- to 20-year-olds are caused by drinking and driving. About 32 percent of the drinking-related deaths involved traffic crashes, while 68 percent involved incidents such as murder (30 percent), suicide (14 percent), alcohol poisoning (9 percent) and other causes (15 percent), MADD says in a press release.

“These data show that taking away the keys truly does not take away all of the risks when it comes to underage drinking,” MADD national president Jan Withers said. “MADD hopes this information will inspire parents to have ongoing conversations with their kids about the dangers of drinking alcohol before age 21, especially since we know that a majority of kids say their parents are the biggest influence on their decisions about alcohol.”

Another study says parents can help reduce children’s excessive drinking in college by talking with them about the potential dangers of excessive drinking before they set foot on campus, and it turns out that children really do listen to their parents about drinking, says the study by Rob Turrisi of Penn State. Discussing drinking in any way before teens go to campus, including why some teens drink while others don’t, as well as the potential dangers of excessive drinking, can help.

Having this type of conversation with teens about the reality of underage drinking and its risks, such as alcoholism and alcohol poisoning, and can reduce the odds that light drinkers will escalate into excessive drinkers, says the study. It can also increase the likelihood that already heavy-drinking teens cut down on their drinking or even stop completely.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also urges parents to talk with their children about alcohol. Click here for more information about doing this or to read about the risks of alcohol use and other prevention strategies.

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