We know, we know…. “underage drinking is a rite of passage”… “I did it when I was young”… “What’s the big deal if they’re doing it in a safe, supervised environment?”… WELL, the buck doesn’t stop there. Our present decisions shape not only our future ones, but our future health and well-being as well.
While this may be old news to you, alcohol is still a drug and there are reasons the legal age is set at 21 and over. It impairs cognitive functions and essentially acts as a poison in the body. You know this, but underage drinkers have a tendency to learn these things the hard way.
- Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year, and cost the U.S. $24 billion in economic costs in 2010.
- People aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.
- On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.
- In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.
Underage drinkers are learning their limits at a stage of crucial brain and physical development. Youth who start drinking before age 15 years are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years.
Other potential side effects of underage/binge drinking:
- School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
- Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
- 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.
While not every side effect is a given, it is a reality. Please accept that while maybe it never happened to you at a younger age, it could easily happen to a loved one. Speak out against underage and binge drinking.