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Alcohol dangerous to those under 21

by Kelly Sickafoose

CDFLC Coordinator

Alcohol use by persons under age 21 years is a major public health problem. It is extremely dangerous – both to themselves and to society – and is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, legal problems, abuse of other drugs, and death from alcohol poisoning.

Drinking is more harmful to teens than adults. Teen brains are still developing until their mid-20s. Drinking during this critical growth period can lead to lifelong damage in brain function, particularly as it relates to memory, motor skills, and coordination.

Alcohol is the number one drug of choice for America's youth, and is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days: 35 percent drank some amount of alcohol; 21 percent binge drank; 10 percent drove after drinking alcohol; and 22 percent rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. People aged 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks. Youth who start drinking before age 15 years are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21.

Although we want to prevent youth consumption of alcohol, the Indiana Lifeline Law is designed to protect minors when alcohol consumption endangers a friend. The law grants immunity from certain charges, including public intoxication and minor consumption, to youth who call 911 when a friend has ingested a dangerous quantity of alcohol. If the minor(s) stay with the friend and cooperate with law enforcement, they are immune from prosecution. The Lifeline Law does not condone underage drinking. While those who call for help won't be prosecuted, the inebriated teen can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The focus is on saving lives.

I recently heard the story of Brett Findbloom; smart, funny, caring, athletic, and full of life. Brett would never believe that he could die from simply drinking too much, too fast. He believed that he was strong and perhaps invincible. However, one particular night, his body was unable to process the quantity of alcohol that he consumed. His friends didn’t call 911 right away and didn’t cooperate with first responders for fear of getting in trouble. Brett’s mother said that Brett would want to tell other youth, “Be careful. Make good decisions for yourself and for your friends. Call 911 for a friend in need. You don’t know it’s too much until the autopsy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's easy to underestimate how early underage drinking starts – sometimes even in the preteen years – as well as the amount of alcohol teens drink and the risks involved. Still, underage drinking isn't inevitable. Encourage teens to avoid alcohol. Talk to them about the risks of underage drinking and the importance of making good decisions.

For more information, visit us Council for a Drug Free LaGrange County (CDFLC) on Facebook.