Jason, a brilliant honor student and the first in his family to apply to college, received a full scholarship to a prestigious Boston-based school. At just 16, his proud parents had concerns about his being so far from home, but Jason was a great kid who’d never given them a moment’s worry. Always highly disciplined, Jason preferred reading books over a night out with friends, so they felt confident he was ready for the academic challenges of university life. Jason enrolled in a summer class to get a head start on his studies but found himself with extra time on his hands compared to his rigorous high school curriculum. One afternoon at the library, he met a handful of upperclassmen and was invited to their fraternity house. Jason declined their offer of beer that first evening, but a week later he accepted. He enjoyed the relaxed feeling that accompanied his newfound ability to talk with girls. Experimentation with mixed drinks soon followed. Jason, unaware that three of his four grandparents had struggled with alcoholism, began drinking heavily and daily. His parents were shocked that just before the fall semester, Jason was admitted to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.

Family time is always time well spent, and it’s important that parents and caregivers recognize their role and influence when it comes to prevention. Teens who have a relative who has struggled with an alcohol addiction are at a higher risk genetically to having issues with substance misuse. Talk early and talk often about your family’s history. The days of “Just Say No” have evolved. Today, the more people talking and learning about substance abuse makes better outcomes for everyone.

Here are some things parents need to know about teens and alcohol:

80% of Palm Beach County students do not use alcohol. Parents can keep this percentage high by sharing this information with others and with their children.

The 20% of kids who do drink in our area, however, do so with extremely risky behaviors such as binge drinking. Acknowledging that trends are always changing is a great first step to staying informed.

Studies show that teens who drink with their parents at home are more likely to drink elsewhere, drink more often, and score higher on a measure of “problem drinking” two years later.

Kids aged 11-14 see approximately 1,000 alcohol ads a year. Discuss what you see and help put some appropriate context around the alcohol messaging your child receives from friends and the media.

People who start drinking before the age of 15 are SIX times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence. Also, since teen brains don’t develop fully until about age 25, cognitive and learning problems may result.

For more information about Hanley Foundation, email or call: 561-268-2355.