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15 Shots Killed Shelby Allen

What's perhaps more shocking is that the 17-year-old drank them at a friend's house, while the parents were home. Here, how her mom is fighting to make sure no other child dies this way

A Deadly Rite of Passage continued...

Experts warn that young brains simply cannot process this amount of alcohol. "The brain doesn't stop growing until the mid-20s, and one of the first regions of the brain affected by alcohol - and affected most dramatically - is the area responsible for judgment and decision-making," explains Schaider.

Although binge-drinking behavior is actually down (from 10.7 percent in 2002 to 8.8 percent in 2009 among 12- to 17-year-olds, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health), this doesn't mean parents can breathe a sigh of relief. "What concerns me most is the attitude of the parents [toward drinking]," says Daniel G. Amen, M.D., a child psychiatrist, medical director of the Amen Clinics (headquartered in Newport Beach, CA), and coauthor of Unchain Your Brain: 10 Steps to Breaking the Addictions That Steal Your Life. "There is a powerful countercultural strain, and one of the ways you see it is the tolerance of 'soft' drugs - like alcohol, prescription medications, and pot. Once you decrease the idea that a drug is dangerous, use of that drug goes up," Dr. Amen says. "If parents think these substances aren't harmful, then they should just see the brain scans. Alcohol decreases functioning and blood flow. When the brain is in this period of intense growth, development is dramatically disrupted. Kids with frequent alcohol use are, quite simply, impaired."

Yet many parents believe drinking alcohol is a relatively safe alternative to drug use, says Harding. In fact, in 2005, the Century Council Survey found that 21 percent of moms of underage girls believed it was OK for teenagers to drink under parental supervision and 20 percent said drinking was a natural part of growing up. "We have to change that outdated way of thinking," insists Schaider. "Social hosting buys into the thinking that kids are going to drink no matter what. But if we educate our kids about the permanent damage alcohol is doing, I am convinced, the kids themselves won't want to drink. If parents were educated about the recent research on drinking, they wouldn't want their kids to drink, either."

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