“I’m so hung over from last night. I didn’t wake up at my house this morning,” says a 15-year old sophomore at Rockwood Summit High School in Fenton, MO.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the number of alcohol-related deaths for the years 2001–2005 to be around 79,000 Americans, 28% of whom are between 12 and 20. Is underage alcohol consumption a bigger problem than most people think or choose to believe?
In a study conducted at Rockwood Summit High School that consisted of 40 students (8 freshman, 15 sophomores, 9 juniors, and 8 seniors), I found that only 13% of the freshman had been drunk. However, by sophomore year, 66% of females had been drunk at least once and a whopping 75% of those drinkers couldn’t count how many times they had done so. In addition, 55% of the male sophomores had been drunk at least once.
Eight seniors were also interviewed; it wasn’t surprising to find that 66% of the females had also consumed four or more times, and all of the males had been under the influence.
Most alcohol consumption was found to take place at parties or at home with friends, making drinking a social activity. One senior said, “I usually drink with my dad [at my grandma’s house].”
According to the Marin Institute, an “alcohol industry watchdog,” not only are there physical damages to the person consuming the alcohol, such as liver disease, heart damage, and cancer, but there are also consequences that involve others. For instance, the Marin Institute places drunk driving as a leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 20, along with suicide, homicides, and other unintentional injuries.
In addition, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that many young people who get into vehicle crashes have an illegal blood alcohol level (BAC) level. BAC shows the amount of alcohol in the blood, which is, on average, 0.08 or higher in drunk 16 to 20 year-old drivers involved in crashes.
One rapidly rising trend, says the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, is binge drinking, which they define as “a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams or above.” Binge drinking can also mean drinking heavy amounts in a short period of time, which can be devastating.
“[Underage drinking] has been around for a very long time and I don’t think it’s going away any time soon,” Tracy Shaynak, coordinator for a computer program called Alcohol Education at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, told The Daily Times.
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