You love your son and feel guilty the alcoholic gene runs as long in your family as the mustache of a Kung Fu master. Over the course of junior high you discover he’s got an alcohol abuse problem. You all agree to put him through detox quietly; no rehab for fear the community will alight, and you don’t want that stigma on him. Two years later, he’s begging to get his driver’s license. You know deep down that you didn’t deal with the root of the problem, and he’s likely to relapse before high school is out.
So do you hold your breath and wait for the call that he’s got a DUI – or worse?
Better safe than sorry
According to 2013 CDC reports:
- 16 – 19 year old teen drivers are about three times more likely than drivers 20 and older to be in a fatal crash
- The death rate for teenaged boy drivers and passengers ages 16 – 19 was almost twice that of teenaged girls the same age range
- Teens driving with teenage passengers multiply the crash risk; each additional passenger increases the risk exponentially
- In 2012, among teenaged boy drivers between 15 and 20 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes, 25 percent had been drinking; of them, 35 percent were speeding at the time of the crash
- At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of involvement in a vehicle accident is greater for teens than for adult drivers
At all levels of BAC. This means even the teen who has one beer or a single shot, then decides to stop because they are driving, is still at a heightened risk of crash.
By now it’s widely known this is in large part because an adolescent’s prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until about 25 years old. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for judgement, decision making and problem solving. It’s no exaggeration teen alcohol consumption literally drowns out functionality of a developing brain.
Several states mandate ignition interlock devices for first time offenders. If the above scenario hits close to home, it may be a more wise decision to sit the boy down and touch on a few things to educate and de-dramatize his substance abuse:
- Talk to a teen who struggles with alcohol abuse about the family genes for alcoholism
- Explain how addiction is a disease
Be practical and remember that a parent’s job is to shepherd with a rod and a staff. Set the tone on how you plan to protect and provide:
- Offer rewards for staying on track
- Clearly outline consequences for deception
- Introduce an ignition interlock device as your families’ preventive measure
You can buy an interlock system for about $1,000, or you can lease one for around $60 a month. A voluntary lease can earn a retailer discount. Installation shouldn’t exceed $200. Insurance companies offer discounts in some states to drivers who install an interlock system.
For the teen who needs redirection from the web of addiction, White River Academy offers rehabilitation at our residential boarding school for boys 12 to 17. We’re located at the edge of the majestic Great Basin in Delta, Utah. WRA has crafted deliberate and holistic treatments and activities to truncate negative patterns of behavior – whether caused by mental health disorders or debilitating addictions. To learn more about our treatment modalities, call us today.
About the author
Kristin Currin is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting.