Summer is finally here. After the long COVID-19 lockdown period, youth and young adults want to get out and have fun together more than ever before. But, beach trips, parties, vacations, and other fun activities often involve the use of alcohol – the most widely used substance of abuse among American youth. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that more youth use alcohol than tobacco, marijuana, or other drugs.
Underage drinking is common, often excessive, and it can start early. Of those who drink underage, 15% began using alcohol before they were 13 years old. For that reason, many young adults come to college with established drinking habits. In 2019, 53% of 12-to 20-year-olds reported past month alcohol use. Over 4 million reported past month binge drinking, and nearly 1 million reported past month heavy alcohol use. Of full-time college students, 33% reported binge drinking. For young adults ages 18-22 who were not enrolled full-time in college, 44% reported binge drinking.
In 2021, it’s important to understand that gender gaps in drinking are closing. From 2002 to 2013, rates of drinking by underage males exceeded that of underage females. From 2014 to 2017, underage females began drinking at rates similar to underage males. By 2019, of individuals who reported drinking in the last 30 days, rates of drinking by underage females exceeded that of underage males.
The consequences of drinking for underage youth and young adults can be very serious. They include increased risk for suicide, death from motor vehicle crashes, interpersonal violence (such as homicides, assaults, and rapes), unintentional injuries (such as burns, falls, and drownings), brain impairment, alcohol dependence, risky sexual activity, academic problems, and alcohol and drug poisoning.
This means we have to talk to the youth in our lives about alcohol use. Why not start by watching this short video with someone special? Youth and Alcohol