What You Need To Know

ABOUT UNDERAGE SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Alcohol is the drug of choice for young people. In fact, alcohol is used by more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs. Although most children under age l4 have not yet begun to drink, early adolescence is a time of special risk for beginning to experiment with alcohol.

UNDERAGE DRINKING IMPAIRS BRAIN DEVELOPMENT

Alcohol is a depressant on the central nervous system (the nerve tissues that control the activities of the body). Alcohol can appear to stimulate or energize a person at first, then it depresses the part of the brain that controls inhibitions.

Alcohol affects a teenager’s brain growth in many ways.  Check out the effects on different parts of the brain below:

FRONTAL LOBES – The area right behind the forehead, is responsible for controlling behavior.  Including planning, forming ideas, making decisions using self-control.  This part of the brain continues to develop until late teens or early 20’s.  Damage from alcohol during these years can cause severe behavioral and personality changes that can be long term or permanent.

HIPPOCAMPUS – The area deep inside the brain, is responsible for learning and memory.  When drinking alcohol, a person may have trouble remembering something.  Drinking a lot of alcohol quickly can cause a blackout – not being able to remember what he or she did last night.  Early exposure to alcohol can cause permanent damage to a teen’s learning and memory.

ALCOHOL LEADS TO BAD DECISIONS, WHICH CAN LEAD TO…

Violence, poor academic performance, promiscuity, arrest and many other dangers. Teens who drink are at a much higher risk for developing mental illnesses such as depression which greatly increases their risk of suicide.

Alcohol poisoning is a serious risk for underage drinkers, as they have not yet developed the part of their brain that makes them go to sleep or pass out from drinking too much.  They can consume dangerous amounts of alcohol before their bodies realize it, resulting in alcohol poisoning.  This causes difficulty breathing, unconsciousness and death.  

Car accidents are the number one killer of Montana teens; more than 1/3 of teen traffic deaths are alcohol related.  Everyone who gets into a car with an alcohol impaired driver is at risk. 

IN THE STATE OF MONTANA

  • It is illegal for persons under the age of 21 to consume or possess alcohol and doing so may result in the suspension, revocation or denial of a driver’s license
  • Use of a false ID to obtain alcohol is a criminal offense and using a false ID may result in a driver’s license suspension through a judicial procedure
  • It is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to operate a noncommercial motor vehicle with a BAC over 0.02

"ONLY DRINKING"

While some parents and guardians may feel relieved that their teen is "only" drinking, it is important to remember that alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug. Not only does alcohol affect the mind and body in often unpredictable ways, but teens lack the judgment and coping skills to handle alcohol wisely.

Montana Laws

If you'd like more information on Montana Laws regarding Underage Substance Abuse you can find it here.

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Find Assistance

You can find treatment and prevention providers in Montana here.

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Are you ready to have a conversation with your teen?

Let's face it, it's difficult to start a conversation about alcohol use; the important thing is that you start.