Youth use alcohol more frequently than tobacco or other drugs. In fact, by the age of 18, more than 70% of teens nationwide report having at least one drink. Trends in Buffalo County and the State of Nebraska have varied only slightly from the trends found for the nation as a whole. So, why is underage drinking problematic?
When young people drink, they tend to consume large quantities of alcohol in one sitting.
This is called binge drinking. Overall, data shows that teens drink less frequently than adults but drink more in a single setting. In fact, young people consume an average of 5 drinks in one setting. There are serious risks associated with binge drinking, such has unusually high blood alcohol levels (BAC), increased impairment including decreased inhibitions, impaired judgment, and decrease in motor skills. Binge drinking often has consequences that can lead to serious problems and even death.
The younger an individual begins to use alcohol, the higher the likelihood of alcohol dependence in adulthood.
Research has shown that 40% of individuals that started drinking before the age of 15 show signs of alcohol dependence into adulthood. The risk of developing alcohol dependence in adulthood is 4 times higher for those that drink at age 15 than it is for those who wait to drink until they are 21.
Alcohol can affect young people differently than it affects adults.
As you probably know, the teenage years can be filled with both adventures and challenges. Dangerous and risky behaviors like underage drinking cause the rates of death and injury to nearly triple between early teen years and early adult life. It is important to recognize though, that risky behaviors associated with underage drinking also have the potential to harm other people, friends, siblings, and parents, too.
Office of the Surgeon General. (2007). The Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking: A Guide for Families (PDF 889KB) Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.