It is illegal in the Cayman Islands for anyone under the age of 18 to consume or purchase alcohol. Despite this fact, a recent Cayman Islands Student Drug Use Survey (CISDUS) conducted by the National Drug Council (NDC) found that 44% of the 3,478 participating students admitted to using alcohol at least once during their lifetime. An alarming 16% of students revealed they had drunk alcohol at some point during the last 30 days.
Alcohol is the number one drug of choice amongst teenagers in the Cayman Islands, according to the CISDUS 2020 findings. However, proper parental intervention can influence children to make smart and informed decisions surrounding alcohol and underage drinking.
Why Teens Drink
Understanding the contributing factors which can lead to underage drinking ensures you are coming from a place of empathy when you approach your child about the risks.
Teens' still-developing brains can make it hard to resist the pull of peer pressure and consider the consequences of their choices. Instead, the immediate reward of feeling liked or a part of the group outweighs the risks of giving in to underage drinking.
On an Island where brunch is a cultural institution and coolers filled with alcoholic beverages are a boat day fixture, alcohol is regularly shown to be synonymous with fun, which can be a confusing message for children. Moreover, studies suggest the positive portrayal of alcohol in the media (social media, TV, radio, print) can sway children into early use.
According to The National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), highly-stressed teens are twice as likely to smoke, drink, and use illegal drugs. Mounting achievement pressure paired with a seesaw of hormones and emotions may lead teens to believe the easiest way to cope is by numbing their feelings with substances.
Natural Inclination to Push Boundaries
As your teen develops their own values and sense of self, they may be inclined to challenge the boundaries parents set for them. Simply telling your teen not to do something can have the opposite of the desired effect.
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Book for navigating the teenage years
Underage drinking can carry serious and lasting implications for the user. Some of these include:
Alcohol is a depressant, and its effects are exaggerated in teenagers. Alcohol can slow down brain activity for up to two weeks after consumption and repeated alcohol abuse from a young age can carry long-term consequences for brain development. Some of the areas which can be permanently impacted include memory function, motor function, learning ability and attention span. Additionally, more life-threatening health concerns, such as heart disease, liver disease, cancer, nerve damage and respiratory infections may emerge over years of heavy drinking.
Drinking impairs your judgment and while under its influence you may make decisions you otherwise would not have made when sober. Generally, teens who drink are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour, experiment with other illicit substances, get into fights and commit crimes.
Against the Law
The bottom line is it is illegal to buy or possess alcohol if you are under the age of 18 in the Cayman Islands, even in the privacy of your own household. You also risk losing your licence for a minimum of 12 months if you are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving. Depending on the level of intoxication, you could be subject to a CI$1,000 fine and face up to six months of imprisonment for the first offence, and a CI$2,000 fine and up to 12 months of imprisonment for a repeat offence.
Get the Facts
- The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the US states that more than 90% of all alcoholic drinks consumed by young people are consumed through binge drinking.
- People who begin drinking by age 15 are five times more likely to develop an alcohol dependency than those who begin drinking after age 20.
- Alcohol is the leading cause of accidental death for youths aged 15-24 years.
Tips for Talking to Your Child About Alcohol
35% of students surveyed in the NDC Cayman Islands Student Drug Use Survey identified their parents as having the most influence on their decision to not experiment with drugs or alcohol. The most effective way to inform your child’s values on drinking is to start talking about it – whether you are trying to prevent them from drinking in the first place, or curb any existing alcohol use.
Children begin to formulate their own opinions on drinking from an increasingly young age – meaning parental intervention should start early. By age 10 children will have already been exposed to positive messaging surrounding alcohol, especially those with easy access to the internet. Answer any questions children have and encourage an ongoing dialogue.
Get the Setting Right
Forgo a formal sit-down talk as that can come across like a lecture. Instead, aim for frequent and casual conversations that are revisited when relevant. Look out for conversational triggers, such as TV shows that positively depict underage drinking, or advertisements for alcohol on the television. Use these as an opportunity to highlight the contradictory messaging around drinking and ask their opinions on the matter.
Prevention begins at home and parents can set a good example early on. Demonstrate positive ways to handle stress and avoid statements like "I need a drink" after a long day, as this can perpetuate drinking as a coping mechanism. Show your children examples of responsible drinking, such as turning down a drink when you are driving and not drinking to excess. Discuss reasons why people may choose not to drink to normalise abstinence as a socially acceptable option.
Set and enforce clear rules against drinking and uphold certain consequences if they fail to abide by your rules. Link responsible actions to freedoms, such as a later curfew or use of the family car, so your expectations carry some weight.
Speaking about drinking is a tough, but necessary topic to tackle with your children. Ultimately you want to remain as approachable as possible – when children feel that you’re being honest with them, they’ll be more likely to respect your rules and feel comfortable coming to you when they have any questions.
Resources for Parents in the Cayman Islands
To learn more about underaged drinking or obtain referrals to programmes in your community, contact one of the following organisations:
Department of Counselling Services Tel: (345) 949 8789 Email: email@example.com