Underage and binge drinking have become prevalent trends for high-school-aged kids throughout America. While that may not come as a surprise, what is unsettling is that the drinking age seems to continually get younger while the amounts consumed steadily increase. Data shows that young adults who take their first sip of alcohol before age 15 are more apt to get addicted to alcohol later in life when compared to those who took up drinking at age 21 or older. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shares some sobering statistics regarding adolescent use and abuse of alcohol.
First Sip Of Alcohol
The first sip of alcohol for the youth population aged 12 to 17 – essentially those children from eighth grade up to juniors in high school – begins at age 13. When that window is opened to include adolescents between the ages of 12 and 20, the average drinking age only climbs to 16 years old – coinciding with the receipt of one’s driver’s license. On any given day in America, there are 4,750 youths under the age of 16 who will consume alcohol for the first time.
The figures for alcohol use amongst those in junior high are staggering. One national study reported that of eighth graders surveyed, greater than one in eight reported having a drink during the month preceding the survey. And, more than one in nine said they had gotten drunk within the past twelve months.
Teen Binge Drinking
Episodes of binge drinking are also concerning. While one might typically associate excess drinking with the milestone 21st birthday, one of the most popular age groups for binge drinking aside from those aged 20 to 25 is the 18 to 20 year old population. In the 8 years spanning from 1993 to 2001, this age group demonstrated the greatest increase in instances of binge drinking (56 percent) amongst adults living in the United States. Worse, kids in the age brackets 15 to 17 and 18 to 20 consume nearly all their alcohol in the form of binge drinking.
Of the alcohol market in America, up to 20 percent is attributed to those under the age of 21, and a good portion of underage drinkers report getting someone else to purchase their alcohol for them. The sobering reality is that of the 10 million people aged 12 to 20 who said they drank last month, almost 6.5 million or 17 percent were classified as binge drinkers. Essentially, adolescents are drinking to excess, and many, including parents, are helping them do it.
Underage Drinking And Risky Decisions
Underage drinking has been associated with risky decision making including sex with multiple partners, driving while intoxicated, and exposing oneself to other dangerous situations like getting into a vehicle with someone else who is under-the-influence. Alcohol is the most commonly used drug by American youth, surpassing use of tobacco or marijuana. It’s important that adolescents be made aware of the dangers of underage drinking, including the risks of serious injury and death.
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