Why Parents Should be Concerned
Underage drinking is illegal. At the same time it is deeply rooted in American society and is often viewed as a rite of passage. Frequently underage drinking is facilitated by adults. Alcohol is the drug of choice among America’s adolescents and is used by more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs.
Alcohol abuse kills some 5,000 youth under the age of twenty-one each year in the United States. These deaths include motor vehicle crashes, homicides and suicides; all of which are among the top causes of adolescent death. Traffic crashes are the number one killer of teens and over one-third of teen traffic deaths are alcohol-related.
Alcohol use by teens is a strong predictor of sexual activity. Alcohol plays a significant role among underage kids in risky sexual behavior, including unwanted sex, unprotected sex, and sex with multiple partners. Life altering consequences can include unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infection with HIV. Underage alcohol use is also associated with academic failure, illicit drug use, tobacco, physical and sexual assault, property crime and a host of long term health issues.
Signs of Alcohol Use
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination, poor balance
- Can't walk a straight line
- Can't focus on your eyes
- Red eyes or flushed face
- Morning headaches, nausea, or sweatiness
- Odor of alcohol on breath or in sweat
- Runny nose/eyes, frequent colds, fevers
- Blood shot eyes/dilated pupils
- Smell of alcohol, frequent use of breath mints
- Mood changes
- School problems/poor attendance
- Switching friends
- Finding alcohol in your child’s room/backpack
- Frequent diarrhea, sweats, muscle aches
Only recently has science recognized that the brain continues to develop and mature during adolescence. Adolescent brains are very vulnerable to alcohol and underage drinking has an adverse effect on kids' capacity for learning and memory.
The numbers associated with alcohol related injury, violence and unwanted sexual activity should make all parents take notice.
- Approximately 600,000 students annually are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol.
- Approximately 700,000 students are assaulted by other students who have been drinking.
- About 100,000 students are victims of alcohol related sexual assault or date rape.
- In 2005, there were more than 145,000 emergency rooms visits by youth 12 to 20 years for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.
- Nearly one third of youth begin drinking in some form before age 13.
The Benefits of Owning a LifeGuard for Your Family
Owning a precision fuel cell breath tester is a benefit not just for parents and kids but for society at large. Here’s some of the ways LifeGuard can benefit your family.
- Concerned parents can either substantiate or dispel their suspicions about hidden drinking by their kids or other family members.
- No other alcohol test method, other than perhaps the human nose, is less invasive, easier to use, faster, or more reliable in detecting alcohol than the LifeGuard. The LifeGuard cannot be fooled by breath mints or other foods commonly used to disguise the smell of alcohol.
- The LifeGuard can detect even minute amounts of blood alcohol which your child may not be aware lingers in their system long after a heavy drinking or binging session.
- Early detection and prevention of alcohol curbs the lifelong consequences of early alcohol use. 40% of those who begin to drink at fifteen will develop alcoholism at some point in their lives. The longer an individual postpones the onset of alcohol the less likely the individual is to develop unhealthy drinking habits, alcohol addiction, or other lifelong problems.
- A home breathalyzer empowers kids to say no to the peer pressure around them to use alcohol. When your child can say "my parents test me" it gives them a legitimate way to avoid peer pressure to do something they’d really rather not.
- A breathalyzer that is introduced well before alcohol problems become apparent helps create an atmosphere in your home and community where underage alcohol consumption is not acceptable behavior.
- Family privacy is preserved and testing is not prolonged waiting for lab results.
- If you believe your adolescent is not being honest with you about drinking (and most kids won’t be) having a LifeGuard at home is both a good deterrent from drinking and lying.
Alcohol Related Personality or Behavioral Changes
- Lack of interest in school, sports or other activities that used to be important
- Withdrawal, isolation from family or friends
- Lack of cooperation/defies rules
- Slipping grades/absent often
- More irritable or argumentative
- Memory lapses, poor concentration, change in motivation to perform
- Increased need for money
- Sudden concern for privacy of things
- Change in friends/avoids old friends
- Change in attitudes about tobacco, alcohol or other drugs
- Vague about whereabouts
The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking highlights that active monitoring by parents is associated with better outcomes around adolescent alcohol use. Kids whose parents supervise them closely are far less likely to develop an alcohol problem.
As part of effective monitoring, parents should:
- Recognize the signs adolescent alcohol use.
- Know their friends.
- Be knowledgeable of their adolescent’s activities.
- Enforce the parental rules they’ve set.
- Strengthen their adolescent’s skills in refusing alcohol.
- Limit the time your children spend without an adult being present.
- Make clear, sensible rules for your kids and enforce them with consistency and appropriate consequences.
Breath Testers for Alcohol Education
The home use of a breath alcohol monitor is never a substitute for open and honest family discussions about alcohol. Breathalyzer demonstrations are frequently used in schools by visiting Law Enforcement or School Resource Officers (SRO) as part of overall alcohol and DUI education. In the same way, a quality breath testing instrument at home is both education and a deterrent to alcohol abuse. Parents can use the LifeGuard as part of larger parent-child discussions about alcohol, driving and DUI.
When Trust has been Broken
For some parents the idea of a home breathalyzer seems inappropriate either because it feels like a violation of parent-child trust or because it may precipitate an unpleasant confrontation. For a teenager just about the worst thing that a parent can do is unjustly accuse them of something they didn’t do. Accusing your child of alcohol abuse without evidence invites confrontation. Providing them the opportunity to prove or disprove alcohol use, in the privacy of your home, is the least embarrassing and most straightforward way to substantiate or deny your suspicions.
What if I Uncover a Problem?
If you find your child has a problem contact your doctor, school counselor, or your local hospital. Professional help can recommend appropriate courses of action for parents and their children.
The Real Story of Underage Drinking
Journalist Gregory Morgan spent time with teens that regularly drink. Here's the full article "What Kids Are Not Telling You: The Real Story on Underage Drinking,"