By Sydney Reese
Underage drinking has become a significant problem in society due to the psychological effects on young brains and accessibility which leads to addiction and binge drinking.
As a reminder, the legal drinking age is 21. The reason this age is set at 21 is because by then, the prefrontal cortex of both females and males has almost fully developed and, therefore, isn’t as impacted by alcohol. The prefrontal cortex is located in the frontal lobe of the brain and is in charge of decision-making. When under the influence of alcohol, this part of the brain not only becomes unable to make smart, safe decisions, but also underdevelops with time. For example, according to The Recovery Village, about 30% of all traffic crash fatalities involve drunk drivers while 17% of those drivers are underage. Teenagers drink and drive on average about 2.4 million times a month.
Furthermore, statistically speaking, by the age of 15, 33% of teenagers have had a drink while by the age of 18, that number increases to 60%. About 2% of 8th graders admit to drinking enough to get drunk while 18% of 12th graders report drinking enough to get drunk. Due to the dangerous accessibility of alcohol, teenagers have many opportunities to drink. While adults of legal age drink overall more than teenagers, when teenagers do drink, they tend to consume more alcohol. Typically, teenagers drink to get drunk and, therefore, consume an unhealthy amount of alcohol. The definition of binge drinking depends on body weight and gender. Standardly, four drinks for females and five drinks for males in one night on one occasion qualifies as binge drinking. If this occurs five or more days in a month, it’s considered heavy drinking. While these terms aren’t meant to scare anyone, they should still not be thrown around lightly.
In addition, teenage alcohol abuse leading to addiction in adulthood is a rising problem in America. Teens who start drinking before age 15 have a 41% chance of struggling with alcohol dependence when they are older. Whereas, if people wait until age 21 to drink, there is only a 10% chance of alcohol dependence in the long run.
Some further risks of underage drinking include use of other drugs, arrest, physical and sexual assault, serious injury, unplanned pregnancy, violent actions, and problems focusing in school. Again, these risks aren’t supposed to plant intense fear within anyone, especially teengers. They are simply risks that alcohol has the potential to increase and cause.
Overall, statistically and evidently speaking, teenage drinking impairs many functions of the body both short term and long term and creates dangerous situations not only for the drinker, but also for the people in the proximity of intoxicated drinkers. While this article is factual, it’s not meant to scare anyone; it’s simply meant to spread awareness.