Think Don’t Drink
Alcohol is the number one drug of choice among youth. According to data collected from the Monitoring the Future survey, three-fourths of twelve graders, more than two- thirds of tenth graders and about two in every five eighth graders have consumed alcohol. The data that was collected shows that when youth drink they tend to drink excessively, often consuming 4 to 5 drinks in a short period of time.
Research has begun to show that many youths begin drinking at around 14 years old, the younger a person starts to drink the more likely they will become dependent on alcohol. When youth start to drink at such a young age, they are more likely to engage in harmful behaviors to themselves and others. Such as, using other drugs, engaging in risky sexual behaviors and often failing classes.
There are also health risks that come from starting drinking at such a young age. The main health risk is the effects on the brain, a typical brain is not fully developed until a person is in their mid 20’s, drinking alcohol can have a long term effect on ones thinking and memory skills. The liver also suffers lasting effects like elevated liver enzymes that can lead to liver damage. Since the teenage years are full of bodily changes and rapid growth spurts drinking during this crucial time can offset the normal balance that is needed for one to develop normal organs, muscles, and bones.
Since underage drinking is such an epidemic there are many restrictions and harsh consequences, such as jail time and large fines for selling and buying alcohol for minors across the United States. In all 50 states the legal age limit to drink is 21, and doing so has been successful in reducing alcohol related crashes among people under 21 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All states also have a zero tolerance law, making it illegal for anyone under 21 who has been drinking to drive. Another effective approach to stopping underage drinking has been raising the price and placing a tax on alcohol sales in some states.
There are also more personalized programs that have been put in place to intervene with underage drinking. Many schools have effective programs that address the social pressures to drink and offer peer led support groups. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that one of the biggest influence on whether youth start drinking starts at home, if parents set clear rules against drinking and consistently inforce them it helps reduce the likelihood of underage drinking.