Underage Drinking

Alcohol is the drug of choice among Northland youth.

19% of our youth used alcohol in the last 30 days and the average age youth begin drinking alcohol is 12!

What are the health risks associated with underage drinking?
Whatever it is that leads adolescents to begin drinking, once they start they face a number of potential health risks. Although the severe health problems associated with harmful alcohol use are not as common in adolescents as they are in adults, studies show that young people who drink heavily put themselves at risk for a range of potential health problems.

Brain Effects—Subtle changes in the brain may be difficult to detect but still have a significant impact on long-term thinking and memory skills. Add to this the fact that adolescent brains are still maturing, and the study of alcohol’s effects becomes even more complex.

Liver Effects—Elevated liver enzymes, indicating some degree of liver damage, have been found in some adolescents who drink alcohol

Growth and Endocrine Effects—Drinking alcohol prior to or during puberty may upset the critical hormonal balance necessary for normal development of organs, muscles, and bones.

Why is the drinking age 21?

  • An adolescent may become addicted to alcohol in as little as 6-18 months. The adolescent’s central nervous system and brain are not fully developed and are especially sensitive to alcohol and drugs. Addiction happens much faster.
  • The risk for alcohol dependency decreases by 14% with each year drinking is delayed after the age of 15. Research shows that the longer you delay the onset of alcohol use with a young person, the less likely they are to experience problems with use later in life.
  • Youth who are drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become dependent than those who wait until age 21.
  • Youth who drink alcohol are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than young people that never drink alcohol
  • The U.S. Surgeon General reports that life expectancy has improved in the U.S. over the past 75 years for every age group except one. The death rate for 15-24-year-olds is higher today than it was 20 years ago. The leading cause of death is drunk and drugged driving.
  • 24% of 8th grader sand 51% of high school seniors reporting using alcohol in the past 30 days.
  • 2.6 million teenagers don’t know that a person can die from an alcohol overdose.

For more information on underage drinking, the Northland Coalition recommends these sites:
The Parnership at Drugfree.org
Above the Influence
Discussion Guides for Parents

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