NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Is Underage Drinking A Local Problem?

underage drinking, alcohol, underage drinkers

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

Is Underage Drinking A Local Problem?

Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.

According to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) students who drank alcohol before the age of 13 was 7% higher in Beulah and Hazen than the state average.

On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.

The National 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students during the past 30 days:

  • 30% drank some amount of alcohol.
  • 14% binge drank.
  • 6% drove after drinking alcohol.
  • 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

In 2016, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 19% of youth aged 12 to 20 years drink alcohol and 12% reported binge drinking in the past 30 days. In 2017, the Monitoring the Future Survey reported that 8% of 8th graders and 33% of 12th graders drank during the past 30 days, and 2% of 8th graders and 19% of 12th graders binge drank during the past 30 days.

What are the Consequences of Underage Drinking?

Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience:

  • School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
  • Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
  • Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
  • Physical and sexual assault.
  • Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
  • Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
  • Memory problems.
  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
  • Death from alcohol poisoning.

In general, the risk of youth experiencing these problems is greater for those who binge drink than for those who do not binge drink.

Early initiation of drinking is associated with development of an alcohol use disorder later in life.

The use and/or abuse of substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, by children and youth poses health and safety risks to them, their families, their schools, and their communities.

How can you help prevent underage drinking?

Reducing underage drinking will require community-based efforts to monitor the activities of youth and decrease youth access to alcohol. Recent publications by the Surgeon General and the Institute of Medicine outlined many prevention strategies for the prevention of underage drinking, such as enforcement of minimum legal drinking age laws, national media campaigns targeting youth and adults, increasing alcohol excise taxes, reducing youth exposure to alcohol advertising, and development of comprehensive community-based programs.

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