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Does it ever feel like everyone at school is drinking? While it can often seem this way, the reality is the vast majority of teens are choosing to abstain… and for good reason.The Centers for Disease Control’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the 30 days prior to the survey, only 34.9 percent reported drinking some amount of alcohol and 20.8 reported binge drinking.

The millions of teens choosing not to drink are making a smart decision. Many teens underestimate the problems that drinking alcohol can pose and do not realize that it can contribute to symptoms of depression. Alcohol may give you a buzz and make you feel more relaxed and social, but alcohol is actually a depressant, which means it will decrease your energy, make you feel tired, and increase your risk of feeling even more depressed. Sometimes people turn to alcohol to try to feel better, but end up feeling worse when the effects of drinking wear off.

While not everyone is drinking, for those who do, the risks are high. Alcohol is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth.

Other risks include:

  • School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
  • Social problems, including fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
  • Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
  • Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
  • Abuse of other drugs.
  • Changes in brain development that may have permanent effects.

Anyone can develop a serious alcohol problem, including a teenager. In fact, drinking alcohol when you’re young raises your chances of becoming addicted as an adult.

Are you worried about yourself or a friend? Help is available. Screening for Mental Health, Inc. (SMH), the pioneer in large-scale mental health screenings for the public, is holding National Alcohol Screening Day on April 7, 2016.

The annual screening and education day raises awareness about alcohol misuse and abuse, while providing the public with beneficial screening and treatment resources. To help individuals assess their drinking habits, SMH is promoting www.HowDoYouScore.org, an online resource that offers anonymous screenings for alcohol abuse as well as resources for treatment and recovery.

The goal of National Alcohol Screening Day is for the public to think about how, when, and why they drink. For teenagers, it is especially important that they learn the unique risks that come with underage drinking.

National Alcohol Screening Day highlights this important issue, and the anonymous, online screenings provide a non-threatening way for individuals to assess whether alcohol may be negatively impacting their health and life. Visit www.HowDoYouScore.org, learn the facts, and think before you drink.