Let's open our eyes to reality; alcohol is part of our society. So let's stop pretending like we don't see it happening in front of our very own eyes.

Many of us know someone who has been affected by alcohol in some way. One of my very own friends was killed because of alcohol.

My friend Karina was a passenger in a car that was hit by a driver under the influence of alcohol. Karina was only 17 and had her whole life ahead of her. I stop and think that it could have been me.

People do not seem to realize or care what is going on. Parents serve kids and their friends at home, thinking it's safer because they are not out on the road. I have friends who like to go dance and drink in Mexico, thinking they are mature enough to handle it because the law says so — south of the border.

Research shows that alcohol affects teens much differently than it does adults. We're not ready for it, and I'm beginning to think that the legal drinking age is not an arbitrary number.

Did you know that 40 percent of those who start drinking alcohol before age 15 will become alcohol-dependent at some time in their lives, compared with 7 percent of those who wait at least until age 21?

Studies conducted over the last eight years in San Diego found that teenagers who drink performed poorly on tests of verbal and nonverbal memory, had diminished attention spans and had trouble exercising spatial skills, such as those required to read a map or assemble a bookcase.

If you would not give a loaded gun to your child, then please don't give them alcohol either. Help your teens and pre-teens make the right choices. Talk to them about the dangers and why they should wait.

I am a teenager and sometimes I like to think that I am mature, but I know that I still have a ways to go. Sometimes my classmates coming back from a night in Mexico are so drunk they can't even stand up by themselves. If more teens only realized that alcohol affects us much differently than adults.

Parents in Southern Arizona have a challenge because of our proximity to the Mexican border. It's imperative that adults here don't enable a bad habit by turning the other way, serving alcohol to teens at home or letting us run off to Mexico without knowing the damage alcohol can bring. Draw the line and be informed.

Editor's note: Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano last week proclaimed May 1 through June 15 Safe Prom & Graduation Season. This article was written as part of the state's underage-drinking-prevention campaign, Draw the Line. Find out more at www.drawyourline.com.

Write to Amber McKenzie at amber.drawline@gmail.com.