Most people in the United States and in fact most people around the world had their first drink before they were legally able to do so. The reason why is that alcohol is the drug of choice among adolescents. Many young people unfortunately are experiencing the consequences as a result of underage drinking, so much so, that underage drinking is one of the leading public health problems in the United States alone.
Each year around 5,000 adolescents or people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking. Whether it is from motor vehicle crashes, homicides, suicides or drowning, this number is too high. And regardless of all these fatalities underage drinking is still widespread and even considered common among adolescents.
According to nationwide surveys done by the Monitoring the Future study, the numbers don’t look good. An annual survey of adolescents in the United States found that over half of tenth graders (around three-fourths), and about two in every five 8th graders have consumed alcohol. This may not sound like a big deal into you account for the fact that many of these adolescents who are drinking are binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four to five drinks at one time. The same study showed that 11 percent of 8th graders, 22 percent of 10th graders, and 29 percent of 12th graders engaged not only in underage drinking, but also in binge drinking.
So why are adolescents engaging in underage drinking?
Well, as many adolescents move from being teens to young adults they encounter many dramatic physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes. This adolescent period which is also known as a developmental transition (puberty), as well as an increased wants for independence are highly associated with underage drinking.
Adolescents tend to be risk takers: During the developmental time in adolescents the brain is developing. In fact the brain continues to develop well into the twenties. Scientists believe that this length of developmental period may explain some of the behavior that is normal in young teens and young adults. Including their want to find new and potentially dangerous situations (such as underage drinking).
Their view or expectancies: How a teen or young adult views alcohol and its effects has a lot to do with how they drink. This view also includes whether they begin to drink at all and how much. An adolescent’s beliefs about alcohol are established very early and these beliefs can influence their drinking patterns for the rest of their life.
Their sensitivity and tolerance to alcohol: The difference between an adults brain and the brain of a growing teen or young adult may help explain why young drinkers are able to consume much larger amounts of alcohol than adults. This can lead to binge drinking. Adolescents also tend to have greater positive effects from alcohol than adults too; this also leads them to underage drinking.
It may be in their genes: Some of the behavioral and physiological factors that increase a person’s risk for alcohol problems or underage drinking may lie in their genetics. It is said that children of alcoholics are between 4 and 10 times more likely to become alcoholics themselves than are the children with “normal” parents. And while these genetics play a huge role in underage drinking and later problems, environment plays a big role too. The genetics aren’t the deciding factor. The environment an adolescent grows up in also should be factored into whether or not underage drinking becomes a problem.
Regardless of the why adolescents engage in underage drinking if you think the young adult or teen in your life may have a problem with alcohol get them the help they need as soon as possible. There are many adolescent outpatient counseling programs that can help and know these why’s of underage drinking.
Source if needed: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA67/AA67.htm