Examine the consequences of teen drinking

Jan 23, 2013

In light of the arrest of 16 Haywood County teens for underage drinking, it’s a good time consider the proven facts on teen alcohol use from the Center for Disease Control.

• Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States and is responsible for more than 4,700 annual deaths among underage youth.

• Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States.

• More than 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinking.• In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol

• The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days 39 percent drank some amount of alcohol; 22 percent binge drank, 8 percent drove after drinking alcohol and 24 percent rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

The laundry list of consequences of underage drinking is a long one.

It’s been proven youth who start drinking before age 15 years are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life

Then there’s the school related problems — poor grades, fighting, disruption of normal growth.

Social problems, such as fighting.

Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.

Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.

Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.

Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.

Physical and sexual assault.

Higher risk for suicide and homicide.

Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.

Memory problems.

Abuse of other drugs.

Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.

Death from alcohol poisoning.

It’s worth noting that the general, the risk of youth experiencing these problems is greater for those who binge drink. More importantly, youth who start drinking before age 15 years are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years.

The CDC recommends a community-based effort to monitor the activities of youth and decrease youth access to alcohol.

Of late, the issue of underage drinking has been overshadowed by the crisis regarding the abuse of prescription drugs in our community. The facts on teen alcohol consumption are a sobering reminder that this issue is one that still needs attention.