Maryland parents may find some reassurance in a recently-published study that found that teens are increasingly delaying drinking alcohol. This finding is backed up by a drop in the number of alcohol and drug-related vehicle accidents involving young drivers between 16 and 20 years old. According to the Maryland Highway Safety Office, it dropped from over 1,100 in 2002 to fewer than 400 in 2014.
The head of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says that awareness by parents of the dangers of underage drinking may play a role in this positive trend. This awareness, coupled with more tools available to help parents talk to teens, gives them an advantage that their parents didn’t have. She says, “I don’t think parents knew enough back then. They didn’t want their kids to drink, but parents didn’t know enough about how to start that conversation.”
Teens’ attitudes toward alcohol also seem to be shifting. While they may feel some peer pressure to drink, many also feel the pressure to do well in school and beyond. As one 14-year-old said, “If I focus on alcohol, I’m not going to focus on my career.” With fewer teens drinking, it’s easier to find friends and peers who share that philosophy and don’t pressure them to drink.
One possible reason for the decline in teen drinking, however, may be the growing accessibility of marijuana. Marijuana is legal in Washington, D.C., for those 21 and over, but it’s still easier to find in the D.C. area and surrounding suburbs than it used to be for people of any age.
Some teens have noted that they prefer the calming feeling they get from marijuana to the impact that alcohol has on their behavior. One teen said that with marijuana, “you still have your morals.” Of course, alcohol and drugs impact everyone differently. However, one psychology professor notes, “There’s a link between alcohol and aggression.”
It’s still important for parents to regularly remind their teens that both alcohol and marijuana, in addition to having an impact on young brains, are illegal for them to possess. Further, driving under the influence of either of them can have significant legal penalties in addition to potentially deadly consequences.
However, if your child is arrested for underage drinking or any other crime involving alcohol or drugs, it’s essential to seek legal guidance to make sure that his or her rights are protected.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “For many teenagers, getting drunk is not on the bucket list,” Tara Bahrampour, The Washington Post, Sep. 25, 2017