Forty percent of teens who drink by age 15 will become an alcoholic.
The biggest increase in drug and alcohol use is between 7th and 8th grades, when it doubles from 14 percent to 27 percent.
One in 5 teens will try marijuana by 12th grade.
The statistics are not something someone made up, said John Underwood, founder of Life of an Athlete/The Human Performance Project.
“It’s the absolute truth,” he said.
Underwood gave Barrington middle school students the truths behind living a health life style, avoiding alcohol and drugs and making good choices. A nationally known speaker and sports science consultant who has coached 28 Olympians, Underwood explained the principles of Life of an Athlete.
Barrington High School’s Broncos Committed uses the principles and is asking students to pledge to be drug and alcohol free during high school. BHS is the first high school in the state to implement Underwood’s program.
Fifty-eight percent of 12th graders use alcohol and drugs, said Underwood, who has studied the effect of both on athletes and their bodies.
“People think marijuana is no big deal,” he said. “It’s been trivialized and that’s a problem.”
“I want people to understand, once it starts, it develops,” he said.
Underwood showed the audience images of the brain, some affected by marijuana. The main ingredient in marijuana, THC, gets bound to receptors in the brain affecting memory, reaction time and general health.
“Athletes who smoke week are not near their potential,” he said.
The part of the brain that controls logic, morals, decision-making and impulsiveness does not fully develop until age 21, Underwood said. So teens make decisions on impulse, he said, adding, “we have a generation of kids who are very impulsive.”
Underwood told students that it may feel like their parents are making all the decisions but soon enough, they will have their own decisions to make.
“You will be making choices. You will be making choices that will impact your life. Starting now,” he said.
He urged students to make good choices and surround themselves with positive people, positive places and positive things.
A factor above all that influences alcohol or drug use is who your child hangs out with, Underwood told parents in the audience. “Your friends speak volumes of you and where you are going,” he told students.
“You can learn things being an athlete you will use for the rest of your life,” he said.
Life of an Athlete teaches teens about the effects of alcohol, drugs, sleep depravation, stress and a bad diet have on their bodies and their sport. For example, teens should be getting eight hours of sleep to achieve REM sleep, where the body’s brain and muscles rejuvenate. It’s like plugging in your iPhone to get it charged, he said. If you are tired when you come to practice or training, it’s a waste of time, he said.
Underwood encouraged students, and parents, to take some time to be still and think about their lives. “Ask yourself how am I living my life,” he said. “Think about the life you are creating.”
“Don’t trash your brain,” he said. “You’ve been given the most amazing thing, your health.”
Nitin Singh and Henry Klest, both seniors on the varsity football team, are among the students who have signed Broncos Committed’s pledge.
Singh has always tried to be true to himself and make good choices. The Broncos Committed group is a good bunch of people who do the same, he said.
Klest also avoids drugs and alcohol. “There are so many people against being alcohol free and drug free,” he said, adding it’s nice to have a group where he can follow his beliefs.