Teenage Drinking

November 29, 2011
Zach Harrison is the star and captain of the lacrosse team at West Coast High School. He has the almost perfect life: he has the girl, the car, the money, but all he wants right now is to drink on his 18th birthday. Zach and his girlfriend are meeting some friends at a party. When they are almost to the party, a drunk driver slams into the driver’s side of the vehicle killing Zack and seriously injuring his girlfriend. The driver is only 19! Underage drinking is an increasing problem in the United States and we need to stop it.

Alcohol use among underage drinkers is a major problem in the United States, today. It is the most used drug among youth accounting for approximately 200,000 emergency room visits per year from injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol. Although drinking under the age of 21 is illegal, 11% of the alcohol consumed in the United States is drank by the age group of 12-20 years old according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Binge drinking accounts for 90% of this consumption. Numerous national surveys have been conducted and in my opinion the results are mind-boggling.

2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 28% of kids12-20 years old drink alcohol and the percentage for binge drinking in that age group was 19%.

2009 Monitoring the Future Survey reported that 37% of 8th graders and 72% of 12th graders had tried alcohol and 15% of 8th graders and 44% of 12th graders drank in the past month.

According to Don’t Serve Teens over 7% of 8th graders, 16% of sophomores, and 23% percent of seniors report drinking 5+ drinks recently (binge drinking).

Drinking levels among high school students are way too high as documented by the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey over a period of 30 days.

42% drank some amount of alcohol

24% binge drank

10% drove after drinking

28% rode with a driver who had been drinking

Underage drinking is linked to extreme behavior and injury according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Approximately 5,000 kids under the age of 21 die every year as a result of drinking. These statistics include crashes, homicides, and suicides. Teens that drink are also at risk for other injuries and possibly a life of alcohol abuse. I believe that reducing underage drinking can decrease these statistics and other drinking related problems. The following information is from dontserveteens.gov.

Brain Development and Alcohol Abuse

Although, I know some parents let their kids drink before the age of 21, I feel that this can really hurt you and your ability to learn. By exposing the brain that is still developing to alcohol a person may have long-lasting intellectual effects and the possibility of alcohol addiction increases. Research shows that the human brain continues to develop into a person’s early 20’s. For each year that the start of drinking is delayed, the risk of alcohol addiction decreases by 14%.

Drinking and Driving

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among youth age 15 to 20. About 1,900 underage drinkers die every year in crashes. Driving skills in young people are more likely to be impaired by alcohol and 16-20 year old drivers that drink are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. I am under the impression that underage drinkers believe that they are invincible.


Depression and stress combined with alcohol contributes to about 300 teen suicides per year. High school students who drink are twice as likely to consider suicide than those who do not and those who binge drink are four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-drinkers.

Sexual behavior

Teen drinkers are more than twice as likely to have had sexual intercourse within the past three months. Young people who drink are more likely to take risks and have sex with someone they don’t know or fail to use birth control. Higher drinking levels increase promiscuity.

Other risks

Teens who drink are more likely to smoke marijuana, use inhalants or carry a weapon. Binge drinking increases the chances of being involved in these activities. I believe that peer pressure also has a major role in drinking and these other activities.

Academic Performance

A government study from 2007 shows a direct correlation between binge drinking and grades. About two-thirds of students with mostly A’s are non-drinkers, while those with D’s and F’s were binge drinkers.

It is documented that youth that start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after the age of 21.

I interviewed a man who is a recovering alcoholic. I won’t reveal his name, so for this interview his name will be Bob. Bob had this to say about his alcohol addiction. “I began drinking when I was 14 years old. Prior to drinking, I would huff gas out of my motorcycle with friends. We would sneak alcohol from parents’ houses. It just started with a few beers here and there or other alcohol that we could find. By the time I was 17, I was binge drinking. This led to drugs, stealing, fights, car wrecks and dropping out of school. The older guys would get us whatever we wanted. I think that peer pressure was a major contributor to my alcohol addiction. Alcohol has ruined a good portion of my life.”

Although, Bob went to re-hab and stayed clean for a year and two months, the alcohol addiction was too strong. He went back to drinking and that resulted in numerous problems. He has been sober now for three months. He says, “This is the hardest thing that I have ever had to do. If I would have known how hard it would be to stop drinking or how much pain it would cause me and the people that I love, I would have thought twice about starting to drink when I was a teenager.” He contributes his alcohol addiction to starting to drink as a teenager. (Since I started this essay, Bob has had another setback in his road to recovery.) To me, this person is a classic example of why underage drinking is not

the path to follow.

Preventing underage drinking will require not only parents to become more involved with their teens, but action to be taken on a local, state, and nationwide level. Youth activities must be monitored and actions taken to reduce the availability of alcohol to teens. Enforcement of underage drinking laws, media campaigns targeting teens and adults, reducing youth exposure to alcohol advertising, and community based programs are all necessary tools in reducing the number of underage drinkers. It is too late for teenagers like Zack and the many others who have died as a result of underage drinking. Underage drinking is illegal and we must put a stop to it, now.

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