Alcohol And Teenagers: A Deadly Mix Essay, Research Paper
Alcohol and Teenagers: A Deadly Mix
Most American teenagers drink some time during their high school career. Many see no harm in an occasional drink at a party. In fact many teenagers view alcohol as the rite of passage into adulthood. For this reason, teenagers are dying to drink alcohol. Unfair as the minimum legal drinking age may seem to eighteen-year-olds who feel they are adult enough to drink alcohol, teenagers are not yet mature and responsible enough to handle the effects of drinking alcohol. According to Crittenton Hospital s records, fifty percent of all teenagers seen in the emercency room are from alcohol-related injuries (1).
The average teenager takes their first sip of alcohol at the age of thirteen (Crittenton Hospital 1). This is really chilling because of all the harmful effect alcohol has on a young person s body. Alcohol causes problems with the stomach, pancreas, liver and other internal organs. Not to mention what alcohol does to a person while drinking it. Alcohol causes blurred vision, bad breath, it makes a person s face red and puffy, and it makes your stomach bloated. All those empty calories in alcohol can give a person what is called a beer belly . Alcohol robs a person of the ability to think or react. This is why alcohol use among teenagers is related to traffic crashes, drowning, vandalism, assaults, homicides, suicides, teenage pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases, just to name a few.
Drunk driving is among the biggest problems associated with irresponsible underage drinking. By driving drunk, a teenager may be ending their life as well as someone else s life. Alcohol affects a driver s performance by reducing reaction time and slowing the decision making process. According to Hingson, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in the United States for people younger than twenty-five. Forty-one percent of fatal traffic crashes involve a driver or a pedestrian who has been drinking and approximately three in every five Americans will be involved in an alcohol related crash at some point in their lives. (1 Prevention ). Immature teenagers don t take into consideration the price they or their parents might have to pay for drinking and driving. The highest price to pay would be living with the guilt of taking a person s life. But if a teenager gets lucky and doesn t kill anyone they might get pulled over by police, which could result in expensive fines, court costs and an increase in the price of car insurance. Hingson reports that alcohol-related traffic crashes cost society $45 billion annually in hospital costs, rehabilitation expenses and lost productivity (11 Prevention ). There is a bigger concern with teenagers drinking and driving rather than adults because teenagers drive more carelessly. Drivers under the age of twenty-one have less experience in driving and as a group, more often take risks in traffic, such as speeding or failing to wear seatbelts. With all this in mind, it is safe to say that for young drivers, drinking is like throwing gasoline on a fire.
Not only is drunk driving a huge concern with immature underage drinkers but homicides, suicides and drowning are also concerns. Crittenton Hospital reports that a sixteen-year-old is more likely to die of an alcohol-related incident than any other cause (1). If underage drinking laws were better enforced by the law enforcement many teenage lives would be saved. A.A.S.T. Webnet Domain has reported that forty-two to sixty-six percent of all homicides, one or both parties involved were under the influence of alcohol (1). In the article, Combating Underage Drinking , it states that alcohol is factor in fifty to sixty-five percent of all suicides among youth (1).
Alcohol and a college student is a very costly mix. Many young college students are not yet mature enough to manage school and drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol in college is considered a rite of passage . Therefore, college students don t feel they ve had the whole college experience unless they drink alcohol. The Madd Organization reports that each year, students spend $5.5 billion on alcohol, more than they spend on soft drinks, tea, milk, juice, coffee or books combined. On a typical campus a student spends about $446 a year for alcohol (4 Here s the 411 ). Not only are college students spending so much money on alcohol but they are also killing themselves with it. According to Crittenton Hospital, Four Michigan college students died from alcohol-related incidents since October 98, including one from Michigan State University after drinking twenty-four shots of alcohol on his birthday (1). At Ferris State University, a twenty-year-old dental hygiene student fell out of her 48 + 32 bedroom window after drinking hard liquor. Her blood alcohol content level was 0.22 twice as high as the legal limit for driving!
Alarmingly, alcohol interferes with a person s ability to learn. Students involved with alcohol are less likely to be effective in their education. This is really sad because the cost of a college education is extremely high and because of the irresponsible use of drinking alcohol, students are not getting all that they could be getting from their classes. As reported by the MADD Organization, alcohol is associated with forty percent of all academic problems and twenty-eight percent of all dropouts. College students who reported D and E grade point averages consumed an average of ten alcoholic drinks per week, while those who earned mostly A s consumed slightly more than three drinks per week (5 Research on Youth ). To put this in other words, failing college students drink three times as much as passing students.
Frightfully, alcohol clouds a young, immature person s judgement and robs them of the ability to think or react right. Proof of this fact is teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. So many unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases could have been prevented if alcohol didn t affect a person s actions and memory. Many young people contract the deadly disease AIDS while in college and as a result gives them a death sentence. The Madd Organization reports that sixty percent of college women diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease were drunk at the time of the infection (5 The Unbelievable Truth about being a Girl ).
Alcohol is a gateway substance for some immature youths. It is usually the first step on the road to use harder addictive drugs like cocaine or heroin. Others will find themselves addicted to alcohol and continually fighting the battles of an alcoholic. Per an interview with Denise Biewiersoff, probation officer, most of the teenagers that she sees for alcohol problems also have drug problems. She finds that most of them smoke marijuana. (Telephone Interview). According to the Madd Organization, ten million Americans are addicted to alcohol. But even more scary alcohol and tobacco kill more than fifty times the number of people killed by cocaine, heroin, and every other illegal drug combined (1 Research on Youth ).
Since there are so many problems associated with youths not being responsible with alcohol, why are so many youths drinking? Drinking is considered a right of passage into adulthood . So many teenagers are so eager to grow up that they are testing their maturity by drinking alcohol. Peer pressure is also among the most common reasons for teenagers to start drinking. It is so much easier for a teenager to take a beer rather than take a stand to their peers. Many other teenagers drink because of boredom, stress, loneliness, and to get high . Little and Bishop state, that ninety percent of high school students have tried alcohol (1).
Appallingly, irresponsible teenagers are able to get alcohol even though the drinking age law is twenty-one. Teenagers, who are undoubtedly out to beat the system, have many ways of getting their hands on alcohol. Most underage drinkers know someone old enough who will purchase alcohol for them. Some underage drinkers look old enough to purchase alcohol themselves and will try it. Teenagers may also use fake, altered or borrow Id s in a store or at an establishment that sells alcohol such as a bar. Some teenagers are so desperate, they will sit outside stores and talk a stranger into buying alcohol for them. And, as a last resort, many teens will steal alcohol right out of their own home from their parents.
A solution to stop immature underage drinkers would be strict supervision from their parents. Parents should be involved in their teen s social life. Parents were teens once and they know the kinds of things teenagers do. A teen should always have a curfew. Parents of teens should face the facts: there is only so much for a teenager to do when they go out. If a teen has too much time on their hands, they get themselves into trouble. Parents should manage their teen s time and know where their teen is and should give them a curfew based on what their teen is doing. A parent s involvement in their teenager s life may be the best thing that they could do for them. If parents would watch their young and not yet mature teenagers more closely the death rate for teenagers may go down.
Another solution to teenagers that still need to grow up and mature before drinking alcohol would be better police enforcement. Police departments have thought of programs to prevent teens from getting alcohol. One program is called Cops N Shops. This is a program in which an undercover police officer will pose as a cashier in a store. This enables an officer to arrest any teen using a fake, altered or borrowed Id. Police officers also walk through bars or restaurants in plain clothes to spot underage drinkers or corrupt bartenders. A program called Party Patrols involves faculty at high schools and universities that tip off police to underage drinkers planning a party. Undercover police officers can attend the gathering or survey the location and make arrests. Yet, in a culture that views alcohol consumption as a part of growing up, even those tasked with enforcing laws may overlook violations.
The loss of life, property damage, economic costs and negative health effects associated with underage drinking as well as a public outcry for attention, provide sufficient reasons to make the illegal use of alcohol by teens a greater concern for police (Little and Bishop 1). Many police officers do not make teenage alcohol use an enforcement policy. Little and Bishop state that many police officers rate this type of enforcement activity among the lowest of police responsibilities because of the hassles involved with it (1).
When law enforcement individuals enforce laws, there are many penalties for underage drinkers that drink alcohol irresponsibly. Obviously, a penalty for homicide by drinking and driving would be jail time. Other penalties for drinking and driving are loss of driver s license, high cost for auto insurance, tickets, probation officer fees, jail time fees and court costs. For an example, in 1997 a 17-year-old boy was driving home from party where he was drinking. He had a headlight burnt out on his car and a police officer pulled him over for it. When the officer reached the car, he could smell the alcohol on the boy s breath. The police officer gave the boy a Breathalyzer test, which confirmed that he was drinking. The police officer took the boy to jail for the night for him to sober up. Because the boy was a minor, his parents were called to pick him up the next morning. The boy was given three tickets, one for unlawful blood alcohol content, one for driving under the influence of alcohol and a headlight ticket. He also had to pay for towing and to get his car out of the impound lot. He had to go to court and there the judge took his driver s license away until he was 25. The judge also ordered him to attend alcohol awareness meetings.
Research indicates that a higher minimum legal drinking age results in fewer alcohol related problems among youth and that the minimum legal drinking age of twenty-one saves the lives of well-over 1,000 youths each year (Toomey, Rosenfeld and Wagenaar 1). Even with this knowledge some people still argue that the legal drinking age should be lowered. One argument for lowering the drinking age is since laws are not being enforced as well as they should be and teenagers are drinking anyway, why not lower the drinking age to eighteen? Although laws aren t being enforced as good as they could be, the minimum legal drinking age is still saving more lives at twenty-one than when the drinking age was eighteen. Even though laws are not being enforced properly they still prevent a lot of teenagers from drinking.
Another argument for lowering the legal drinking age is that Europeans let their kids drink and they don t have the problems that the United States do. Research has proven, however, that European countries have all the alcohol-related problems the United States has expect for drunk driving among youth. It is not as big as a concern in Europe. Toomey, Rosenfeld and Wagenaar state that European youths obtain their drivers license at an older age, are less able to afford automobiles, and more often use public transportation (9). Youth in Europe are at a lower risk for traffic crashes simply because they don t drive as frequently as much as American teenagers do. European countries are examining setting drinking age laws that are appropriate for purchasing alcohol.
The most common and most used argument for lowering the drinking age is that teenagers are given so many rights at the age of eighteen, why not give them one more right? Toomey, Rosenfeld and Wagenaar answer that by saying our society sets different ages for different things. At the age of sixteen a person gets their drivers license, at the age of eighteen a person can vote and register for the draft and at the age of thirty-five a person can run for the office of presidency (10). There is no question that the twenty-one-year-old drinking age has saved many lives.
Underage drinking among teenagers that are not yet mature and responsible enough to handle drinking alcohol can have devastating consequences and demands serious attention. Teenagers that view alcohol consumption as a rite of passage into adulthood don t take the effects of drinking alcohol seriously enough. Teenagers need to view alcohol as a deadly drug rather than a test to their maturity and their need to feel all grown up.
A.A.S.T. Webnet Domain. Drinking and Driving : Facts in Brief. Online. Internet. 1 April, 1999. http://www. Aast.org/abstract.html
Biewiersoff, Denise. Telephone Interview. 5 April, 1999.
Crittenton Hospital. Alcohol and Kids What you Should Know. Wellsprings 13:2 (March/April 1999).
Combating Underage Drinking. Online. Internet. 14 March, 1999. http://www.ncjrs.org/is941/3.html
Hingson, Ralph. Prevention of Drinking and Driving. Alcohol Health and Research World 20.4 (1996): 219-226. Online. FirstSearch. WilsonSelect. 13 pages. 14 March, 1999.
Little, Bobby, and Mike Bishop. Minor Drinkers/Major Consequences: Enforcement Strategies for Underage Alcoholic Beverage Law Violators. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 67.6 (1998): 1-4. Online. FirstSearch. WilsonSelect. 5 pages. 28 January, 1999.
Madd Organization. Here s the 411 for the Under 21 Crowd. Online. Internet. 14 March, 1999. http://www.madd.org/under21/default.html
Madd Organization. Research on Youth: Drinking, Driving and Other Drugs. Online. Internet. 26 March, 1999. http://www.madd.org/stats/stat_youth.html
Madd Organization. The Unbelievable Truth about being a Teenage Girl. Online. Internet. 1 April, 1999. http://www.madd.org/under21/youth_girls.html
Toomey, Traci L., Carolyn Rosenfeld, and Alexander C. Wagenaar. The Minimum Legal Drinking Age: History, Effectiveness, and Ongoing Debate. Alcohol Health and Research World 20.4 (1996): 213-218. Online. FirstSearch. WilsonSelect. 11 pages. 28 January, 1999.