Adolescence is typically a time of experimentation and exploration. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to irresponsible behaviors, like underage drinking. Underage drinking is a serious problem in the United States, and it’s one that often has devastating consequences.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about 4,300 people under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol-related injuries. This includes car crashes, homicides, suicides, and other accidents. Drinking also increases the risk of developing long-term health problems like liver disease and cancer.
Of course, not all young people who drink are doomed to a life of misery and despair. However, it’s important to be aware of the risks associated with underage drinking. If you choose to drink, do so responsibly. Know your limit and stick to it. Don’t get behind the wheel of a car after drinking. And always keep in mind that alcohol can be dangerous – even deadly – if misused.
The legal adult age is generally set at 18 in countries around the world. However, government laws are sometimes inadequate. There are several discrepancies between the drinking and driving ages. The government has been reconsidering the age of accountability because adolescents have rushed to become adults too soon. As a result, the age of responsibility is 21: decision-making, impulse control, and maturity).
Although some believe that 18 is the age of responsibility, it cannot be applied to all aspects. Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by physical, cognitive and social changes. The teenage brain is not fully developed; thus they are more prone to make impulsive decisions.
According to a study done in 2016, “The brain continues to develop and mature into young adulthood. Adolescents are particularly susceptible to risky behaviour because regions of the brain governing planning and impulse control are still maturing” (Elizabeth Saewyc). This suggests that even though 18-year-olds may seem more responsible, they aren’t as much as people think.
An example of an impulsive decision would be drinking alcohol. The legal drinking age in Canada is 18; however, research has shown that alcohol consumption can have negative effects on the teenage brain. A study done in 2018 showed that “People who started drinking before age 15 were four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who began drinking at age 21 or older” (Naima Moustafine).
This suggests that the earlier someone starts drinking, the more likely they are to develop an addiction. Therefore, the legal drinking age should be raised to 21 in order to protect adolescents from making impulsive decisions that could negatively affect their health.
The age of accountability is determined by a person’s choices. At times, poor judgments lead to teenagers getting into more hazardous/complicated situations. Poor decision-making, such as having sex without using birth control, can also result in pregnancy and teen abortions. Despite the fact that abortion is legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, some nations demand parental permission or judicial intervention ( “Teen Abortion Statistics” ).
According to a study done in 2015, “In 2014, there were 249,078 abortions performed on women aged 15-19 years old” (“Abortion Statistics”). Adolescents are not ready to have children, and sometimes resort to abortion as a way out. In order to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and abortions, sex education should be improved and made more widely available.
Teens also face pressure when it comes to drinking alcohol. Underage drinking is a major problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “more than 90% of adults aged 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; about 56% reported drinking in the past year” ( “Alcohol Facts and Statistics” ). This means that almost everyone has consumed alcohol at some point in their lives, and more than half have done so in the past year. However, underage drinking is still a major issue.
According to the NIAAA, “In 2014, there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol” ( “Alcohol Facts and Statistics” ). This is a problem because it not only puts the drinker at risk, but also those around them. In order to reduce underage drinking, adults need to be better role models and parents need to talk to their kids about alcohol.
According to a recent study, college students’ drinking habits contribute to 17,000 deaths, 599,000 injuries, and 97,000 cases of sexual assaults (“Choose Responsibility”). Teens place themselves in danger by failing to recognize the consequences of their actions. 6 million children now alive who will die prematurely as teenagers as a result of choices they make throughout adolescence (“Statistics on Teens”).
Adolescence is a time when young people are exploring their independence and trying new things. Drinking alcohol is often seen as a part of this process. However, it is important to understand the risks associated with drinking before making the decision to drink.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours” (“Binge Drinking”). Binge drinking can lead to many negative consequences, including but not limited to: car accidents, alcohol poisoning, injuries, sexual assault, and death.
Underage drinking is not only illegal, but it can also have a number of negative consequences. These consequences can be short-term or long-term, and they can range from mild to severe. Short-term consequences of underage drinking include but are not limited to:
• Loss of coordination
• Slurred speech
• Memory problems
• Blackouts (not being able to remember what happened while you were drinking)
• Decreased inhibitions (doing things you wouldn’t normally do)
• Risky behaviors (such as driving under the influence or having unprotected sex)
• Death (from alcohol poisoning or injury)
Long-term consequences of underage drinking include but are not limited to:
• Problems in school
• Memory problems
• Brain damage
• Liver damage
• Heart damage
• Immune system problems
• Permanent damage to the developing brain (for adolescents who drink before age 15)
Adolescents should be aware of the dangers of drinking before they make the decision to drink. If they do choose to drink, they should do so responsibly and always with the supervision of a parent or guardian.