Muir Wood Teen
Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services is a Joint Commission-accredited mental health and substance use disorder treatment provider located in Petaluma, California. We provide integrated evidence-based care including psychiatry, psychotherapy, experiential therapy, wellness services, and milieu therapy for adolescents and teens, and their family members.

Earlier Drinking Age Contributes to Increase in Teen Alcohol Abuse

A study published by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and reported on CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov indicates that when the minimum drinking age is reduced, significantly more problems with teen alcohol abuse occurs along with all related issues. These include:

  • Car accidents
  • Accidental deaths
  • Alcoholism and addiction
  • Increased rates of teen abuse of other substances

It’s an issue that isn’t on the table legislatively in most areas across the country, but it’s a debate that’s held in many American homes on a personal level. Parents ask, “Should we allow our son to drink here at home in order to protect him from (a) driving while intoxicated, (b) getting in the car with someone else who is intoxicated, (c) making other poor choices under the influence, or (d) taking other drugs or harming himself medically without assistance?”

If the study is any indication, the answer is a resounding “no.” But there are a number of reasons why it’s never a good idea to allow your child to drink at home.

Sending the Wrong Message

Allowing your son to drink at home gives him the idea that you think that alcohol use is an okay choice for him. In most cases, it takes only one or two beers for a teenager to become intoxicated. Any alcohol use by teens is therefore alcohol abuse. The fact that you would allow him to do that in front of you and in your home says that you approve of him being intoxicated. Most teens will begin to push the envelope and justify drinking a six-pack or liquor, smoking marijuana, and using other drugs to achieve the same effect. When you allow them to drink when it is illegal for them, how can you argue with their decision to use other drugs that are also illegal?

You Can’t Be There All the Time

Just because you allow your son to drink alcohol at home when you are present, it doesn’t mean that he won’t also drink elsewhere. It also doesn’t stop him from drinking at home when you are not there. If you open up that can of worms, it’s going to be difficult to tamp the lid back down in situations where you are less comfortable and your son is at increased risk.

The Earlier Drinking Starts, the Longer and Larger the Problems

If your goal is to loosen up the limits to keep your son happy but still protect him from the harm caused by alcohol, you won’t be able to accomplish both goals by allowing him to drink in any circumstances. Studies show that the earlier your son starts drinking, the higher his chances of struggling with a lifelong drug and alcohol problem.

If your child is struggling with alcohol abuse and/or abuse of other substances, contact us at Muir Wood today and learn how you can help him get to a place of balance and stability in his life.