Reasons for teen drinking extend beyond trying to be “cool”

Alexis Megdanoff, Online Editor

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As students make their way toward their cars after the football game, whispers of an after party circulate. If the party includes drinking, the kids’ choice to drink or to just say no is influenced by several factors, beginning with the fact that an adolescent’s brain is underdeveloped and causes them to make poor choices at times.

“The pre frontal cortex is used for executive functioning, including planning, reasoning, and judgment,” local psychologist Dr. Jennifer L. Flack said. “We also believe the pre frontal cortex helps to control appropriate social behavior like drinking. So because teenagers have an underdeveloped pre frontal cortex, they are more likely to make inappropriate social decisions based more on the low level functions [of the brain].”

The underdeveloped brain sometimes makes it difficult for teens to make smart decisions when handling high emotions like stress, fear, and pleasure.

Untitled Infographic (1)“Some teens drink because school is hard and drinking can give them a stress reliever for a little while,” junior Callah Sullivan said. “It’s a stress reliever for the problems at home and at school. Drinking and partying on the weekend gives a form of relief. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.”

Stress is just one part of the equation. Perceived peer pressure and the desire to be more mature can also influence an adolescent’s choice to drink.

“Social and emotional risk factors are a little more complicated,” Flack said. “Teens are trying to individuate from their parents and begin to make their own decisions. During the teen years, teens try on different personality styles. This typically means doing things peers recommend or are doing.”

To address this issue, campaigns like The Talk. They Hear You. from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration have set goals to increase parents’ awareness and actions against teen drinking and help them gain confidence to prevent it.

“When you look at national statistics our efforts have not been successful,” Fenton Police Chief Rick Aro said. “The school can’t solve this problem alone, parental support (leading by example) and a change in the way society perceives drinking (similar to smoking) will be necessary in my opinion to reduce underage drinking.”

Whether or not its because they are stressed from school work, family troubles, or any other reason, they are not just drinking to be cool. Teens are led to make poor choices and they can be led to make smart ones.

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