Underage Drinking – A National Health ProblemStatistics from the National Institute On Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism concerning underage drinking are surprising and show that it has become a national health problem:
- There are approximately 11 million youths, ages 12-20 who admit to drinking alcohol.
- By the time they reach the 8th grade, almost 50% of young people have had a drink and more than 20% of young people admit to having been intoxicated.
- Over 50% of high school seniors report having consumed alcohol within the past 30 days.
- Among high school seniors, approximately 30% report drinking at least three times a month.
- Among high school seniors, approximately 30% report binge drinking on at least on occasion within the past two weeks.
- Overall, 28% of young people ages 12-20 report having consumed alcohol within the past 30 days.
Alcohol Related Health Problems
- Drinking and Driving: There are a number of health problems associated with underage drinking. Although it is not surprising that auto accidents are common with young drivers, it is surprising to learn that fatal alcohol-related traffic crashes are twice as common in drivers from 16 to 20 years of age than for drivers over the age of 21.
- Potential For Alcohol Addiction: Statistically, young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol addiction than those who first began drinking at age 21. While there are many factors involved in the causes of alcohol dependence, the early usage of alcohol cannot be overlooked as a contributing factor.
- The Effect of Alcohol On The Adolescent Brain: During adolescence, many changes occur in the body, including the brain. It has been suggested that the development of the brain may be affected by exposure to alcohol causing subtle learning impairments. Studies have shown that short term memory skills may also be adversely affected. Unfortunately, it is also thought that such alcohol related impairments may be permanent.
- Risky Sexual Behavior: It is no mystery that drinking alcohol can lower inhibitions. Research with regard to teenage alcohol usage additionally documents an association between alcohol usage and risky sexual behaviors including having multiple partners and not using condoms. The potential consequences including sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy are obvious.
- Sexual Assault: Sexual assault often occurs in the context of a “date.” It has been suggested that alcohol use by the offender, the victim, or both increases the likelihood of a sexual assault due to the impaired judgment.
- Suicide: Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 14 and 25. Alcohol has been shown to interact with underlying psychological conditions involving stress and depression to contribute to the prevalence of suicide.
Without question, underage drinking has significant health consequences that must be considered and addressed.
The lawyers at the Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys have seen first hand the devastation that can take place as a result of car accidents caused by drunk driving. We urge parents to openly address the issue of alcohol with their teenager and encourage constructive discussion about underage drinking. A number of great resources are available to parents and young people alike at the links set out below:
Alcohol information for teens: http://www.thecoolspot.gov/
College drinking prevention: http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/