Uncovering the Statistics of Underage Drinking

22. June 2016

As a society, there are many problems we face today. Being an election year, words like “Trump” and “Hillary” are littering many of our conversations and social media news feeds. Recently, health care reform was a major issue and actually remains on the conversational docket for some people today. There’s still a lot of overseas conflict happening in addition to hate crimes and the very real, looming threat of ISIS. But while these are issues that affect many people at large, they’re very much at the communal and societal levels rather than affecting us on a more individual, familial level.

In addition to the many other problems we face, substance abuse has become an ever-growing menace to the U.S. and even the world at large. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, classifies the current spike in addiction rates as an “epidemic”, which perfectly captures the levels to which America’s substance abuse problems have risen. Worst of all, these high rates of alcohol and drug abuse have spawned additional issues, including substance abuse-related deaths, domestic violence, accidental injury, and more.

There’s no such thing as a “safe” mind-altering substance. By definition, the fact that these are substances that alter the brain’s ability to function appropriately have some potentially lethal implications. When you consider that there are more and more teens, adolescents, and other underage subadults abusing these substances, the state of America’s substance abuse problem becomes even more concerning. Therefore, let’s turn our attention toward a specific demographic and the rates at which they abuse one particular substance.

Alcohol: Legal and Available

As mentioned above, there’s no such thing as a “safe” mind-altering substance. Alcohol and drugs cause pronounced changes in the brain’s chemical and functional levels, causing disturbances in perceptions, cognition, the interpretation of sensory information, and many other effects. While there are many substances that can cause these very intense effects, there’s one substance in particular that’s particularly concerning for a number of reasons.

Alcohol is a particularly dangerous substance because, in addition to many other reasons, it’s legally available and extremely accessible. Being a legally available and consumable substance, people who are of legal age can purchase alcohol basically anywhere where it’s sold. Moreover, they’re able to consume alcohol in most situations — unless there are laws that prohibit alcohol consumption in certain situations such as while driving. Since it’s a legal substance that can be readily purchased and consumed, people tend to underestimate the dangers of alcohol. It seems that since it’s legal, many people assume that alcohol isn’t very dangerous because it would be made illegal if that were the case; however, the laws that make alcohol a legal substance are predicated on an alcohol user’s ability to distinguish safe alcohol consumption behavior from unsafe or irresponsible alcohol consumption behavior. In other words, alcohol is legal because it’s up to the consumer to be responsible with the mind-altering substance; if he or she abuses the substance, there could either be legal repercussions — which is the case when a person drinks and drives — or the individual could become addicted — which is the case when a person abuses alcohol.

Why Do Teens Abuse Alcohol While Underage?

There are a number of explanations that have been put forth to explain why teens and other underage individuals drink and abuse alcohol before they reach the legal drinking age. One such explanation is rebellion; they know that they shouldn’t be drinking alcohol, so they intentionally seek and consume alcohol as a means of bucking at authority. Alternately, some adolescents and teens resort to alcohol abuse as a means of escaping their realities, perhaps because other members of their families abuse alcohol or due to having a poor home life or some other reason. In some cases, teens and adolescents turn to alcohol abuse merely out of curiosity or because it’s accessible to them.

group of teenagers drinking beer

Rates of Underage Alcohol Abuse in the U.S.

No matter the reason for it, the fact remains that there are many underage drinkers in the U.S. Although a person must be at or over the age of 21 to purchase alcohol, there are no laws about owning alcohol in the same home in which a person under the legal drinking age also lives. It seems that the laws governing alcohol consumption assume that those who purchase alcohol will take the initiative to keep the alcohol out of reach of anyone who’s underage, but the fact remains that many teens and subadults can readily access alcohol in their own homes.

Each year, almost 4,400 adolescents, teens and young adults under the age of 21 die in alcohol-related incidents, which includes car crashes caused by driving under the influence, accidental deaths, and homicides. Despite a small decline in recent rates of underage alcohol abuse, statistics show that over 23 percent of individuals ages 12 to 20 regularly consume alcohol, and in many instances the alcohol consumption constitutes abuse and/or binge drinking. Additionally, it’s been found that, respectively, 40 percent and 20 percent of students in the eighth to twelfth grades have abused alcohol in the past year and in the past month. Among high school seniors, a 2015 study showed that even after the recent declines, almost one in five — or 17 percent — of them were regularly participating in binge-drinking behavior.

Let Intervention Services Guide You Back to Health

Alcohol abuse is a major issue, both for those who are underage and for those who are of legal drinking age. Because it’s a legal substance, more and more people are underestimating the addictive potential of alcohol, making alcohol the no. 1 most-addictive substances with the highest rates of addiction in the U.S. But there’s a silver lining: Intervention Services can help those who have become addicted to alcohol — and to any other mind-altering substances — get their lives back. For more information or for a free consultation, call Intervention Services toll-free at 877-478-4621 today. We’re available anytime, day and night, and are always ready to provide the resources you or your loved one might need to regain mental and physical health.