Remember being given a glass of wine with your dinner as a treat? Well, now experts warning parents not to let teenagers drink alcohol at home or buy them alcohol because of the potential health risks.
Many parents believe allowing their teens to drink alcohol at home might teach them about drinking responsibly, but a leading addiction expert believes this view is misguided.
Dr Eamon Keenan, national clinical lead on addiction for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was speaking as the HSE launched a guide to alcohol and drugs aimed at parents.
“That approach isn’t particularly helpful, because with it what you’re saying to your child is, ‘It’s OK to drink under the age of 18’,” Dr Keenan said, as reported by The Times.
He went on to say that though parents may think that their children are sensible and grounded and that giving them alcohol at home is a “progressive” way to approach the situation, fundamentally doing this will give teens the idea that they can drink.
“Therefore, they’re more likely to drink alcohol outside the home in a harmful manner.”
Dr Kennan stressed that the link between alcohol and drug-taking in adolescent years and addiction later in life was “huge”.
“A lot of the people who we would see now would have taken drugs or alcohol at an early age,” he said.
“If you start using cannabis before the age of 15 you increase your risk of addiction by four times by the age of 26. So it’s about delaying that onset of the use of these substances as long as possible.”
According to Dr Keenan Other risks associated with underage drinking include injuries, antisocial behaviour, poor school performance. Long term this could lead to mental health problems and addiction.
There are other reasons parents should be discouraging their teens from drinking underage too.
“With the advent of social media and the images being stored on the web forever, the repercussions of drunken behaviour may last much longer than the time they occurred and may continue to haunt a person into adulthood,” Dr Keenan warned.
Instead of allowing their children to drink at home, the HSE is encouraging families to kick start a conversation about the risks associated with alcohol.
Their new guide, which is available to download at www.askaboutalcohol.ie includes practical advice on how to help them to resist pressure from their friends to drink.
The alcohol warnings come as a recent study revealed that one in six parents are allowing their children to drink alcohol by the age of 14.
Researchers from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the UCL Institute of Education and Pennsylvania State University believe that many parents are offering their children alcohol at an early age as a way of teaching them to drink responsibly.
But according to scientists, there is no evidence that supervising children’s drinking protects them against harmful drinking in later life.
Instead, researchers are advising parents to heed the warnings from previous studies which revealed that those who start drinking early are more likely to fail at school and have behaviour issues as well as alcohol and substance problems in adulthood.
Interestingly, however, a further study revealed earlier this year that teens are rejecting “binge” drinking.
While almost a quarter (24%) said they never drink alcohol, of those who did drink, most did so at relatively low levels, with 28% consuming 1-2 units on a typical occasion, and half (50%) consuming 1-4 units.
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