There are a lot of strange myths about alcohol and underage drinking swirling around out there, so let’s take a second to put some things straight. Find below a list of 10 common myths about alcohol that don’t hold up against the facts.
1. Myth: Alcohol is less harmful than other drugs.
Fact: Like other commonly misused substances, alcohol is highly addictive and causes tens of thousands of deaths every year. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), alcohol is linked to approximately 88,000 deaths per year, more than the 64,000 deaths to drug overdoses in 2016, making alcohol-related deaths the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the country.
2. Myth: All of my peers are drinking.
Fact: It may seem like drinking is everywhere, but according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) about two-thirds of teens are not drinking.
3. Myth: Beer, wine coolers, and wine are safer than liquor.
Fact: Although it’s true that hard liquor may have a high alcohol percentage than beers and wines, alcohol is alcohol, and what matters is how much is consumed. A beer may contain 4-7% alcohol, wine 12%, and hard liquor closer to 40%—meaning a glass of beer, is about the same alcohol content as a 1.5 shot of vodka. A certain amount of any alcoholic beverage will pose the same risks.
4. Myth: If adults can drink in a healthy manner, so can kids.
Fact: Because the teenage brain is still developing, alcohol affects it differently. Research has shown that drinking causes more damage to the developing brain and that underage drinking drastically increases the likelihood of developing an alcohol disorder later down the line.
5. Myth: I can sober up quickly if I need to with coffee, a cold shower, a greasy meal, or walking it off.
Fact: Not so! You might trick yourself into feeling a bit soberer after a coffee and a shower, but it takes about two to three hours for just one drink to be metabolized by the body, no matter if you have a big meal, walk it off, or whatever other measures you take. All you can do is wait.
6. Myth: If we changed the drinking age from 21 to 18, there would be fewer problems with young people’s drinking habits.
Fact: In fact, a lot of thought went into the 21 minimum drinking age. Since 1984, when the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21, deaths related to driving while under the influence have decreased annually by the thousands.
7. Myth: Most teen drinking deaths happen because they decided to drive drunk.
Fact: Although drunk driving is extremely dangerous to the driver and others, studies have shown that in fact, drunk driving accidents account for only about one-third of underage deaths linked to alcohol. The other two-thirds of alcohol-related deaths in teens are due to alcohol-related homicide, suicide, poisoning, and other accidents.
8. Myth: Everyone stands the same risk of developing an alcohol addiction.
Fact: Anyone is susceptible to developing an alcohol disorder, but not everyone is subject to the same likelihood. There are various factors to consider, including hereditary factors, mental health conditions, and the age when a person began drinking in the first place, which is all to say that one person might be able to drink now and then without developing a serious addiction while someone else may not.
9. Myth: People of the same height and weight can drink the same amount of alcohol safely.
Fact: Alcohol affects different people in different ways depending on a long list of variables. For instance, some health conditions can change the way our bodies react to alcohol, or medications can also have unpredictable interactions with alcohol. Other factors include age, gender, the rate of consumption, diet and more. Just because one person can drink a certain amount without needing to go to the hospital doesn’t mean someone of the same size and weight can do the same.
10. Myth: Because Europeans can drink at an earlier age, they drink more responsibly and have fewer drinking-related problems.
Fact: Though kids in America often like to say kids in Europe drink more responsibly because of the lower drinking age, the data actually does not support the claim in the least. In one study of 15-16-year-olds in 35 European countries, the data suggest that kids in these countries drank more often and drank more heavily than kids in America.
If you’re having a difficult time and would like to talk to someone about it, there are other teens at Teen Line who want to listen. Reach them at 310-855-4673, or text TEEN to 839863.