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Teen attitudes about drinking are changing

Parents of Maryland teens may find some relief in a study released last year about teens and alcohol. According to the study, which appeared in a journal called Child Development, the percentage of teens who say they've tried alcohol has dropped from 93 percent to 67 percent in the past 40 years.

Statistics from Maryland's Highway Safety Office seem to back up that trend. Car crashes involving young people between 16 and 20 who were driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs have been dropping.

High school kids in Washington, D.C., who were interviewed about alcohol, gave various reasons why it wasn't part of their lives. One said, "I'd rather keep my wits about me." Others said it would interfere with their pursuit of their academic and career goals in an increasingly-competitive climate. One 17-year-old football player said, "I never really needed it to have fun." He added, "It's not something I put on my bucket list."

With alcohol seeming to have less appeal to teens, it's easier for kids who choose not to drink to find friends who feel the same. Therefore, they don't face the peer pressure that many of their parents did several decades ago. One official with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which was started back in the 1980s, says that parents in that era weren't as aware of the dangers of alcohol. Even those who wanted to talk to their kids about drinking "didn't know enough about how to start that conversation."

Parents, however, may be less thrilled to learn that some teens are turning to marijuana instead of alcohol. It has a more calming effect. It's also more widely available than it was decades ago. It's even legal for recreational use in Washington, D.C. for those who are 21 and older. Of course, that doesn't mean that it's difficult to acquire for those under 21.

There are plenty of resources to help parents talk to their teens about alcohol and drugs, and it's essential to have these conversations -- even if your teen has reached the same conclusion about alcohol as the teens quoted above. However, it's also essential for teens to know that they can turn to their parents for support if they are facing charges for underage drinking or DUI. Criminal charges, even at a young age, can have long-term impacts on a person's life.

Source: Washington Post, "For many teenagers, getting drunk is not on the bucket list," Tara Bahrampour, accessed April 27, 2018

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