During Alcohol Awareness Month in April, L.A. CADA is taking a look at the effects of alcohol in our lives.
It’s probably no surprise to read that alcohol is the drug of choice among youth. But, many young people are experiencing the consequences of drinking too much, too early. As a result, underage drinking is a leading public health problem in this country.
Research shows that many adolescents start to drink at very young ages. In 1965, young people started drinking at the average age of 17.5. Today, boys start to drink at age 11 and girls at age 13. But why? Often, it’s a developmental thing. As people move from adolescence to young adulthood, we encounter dramatic physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes and people grow up faster these days. COVID 19 alone created huge changes in the lives of teen as a result of social distancing. Developmental transitions, such as puberty and increasing independence, are also associated with alcohol use.
So, why not have a little fun drinking? Well, people who reported they starting to drink before the age of 15 were four times more likely to also report meeting the criteria for alcohol dependence at a later point in their lives. In fact, new research shows that the serious drinking problems (including what is called alcoholism) typically associated with middle age actually begin to appear much earlier – during young adulthood and even adolescence.
Other research shows that the younger we are when we start to drink, the more likely we will be to engage in behaviors that harm ourselves and others. For example, frequent binge drinkers (nearly 1 million high school students nationwide) are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as using other drugs, having sex with six or more partners, and earning grades that are mostly Ds and Fs in school.
Sometimes the consequences of underage alcohol use are deadly. Each year, approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking; this includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 as a result of homicides, 300 from suicide, as well as hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings.
If you or someone you know has a drinking problem, call L.A. CADA and ask for our Youth Department. Treatment is free.