Dangers of Underage Drinking
While getting behind the wheel is still the leading cause of fatalities connected with underage drinking, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is warning parents everywhere of the other dangers the combination of youth and alcohol presents.
After analyzing data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, MADD found that about 68% of fatalities associated with underage drinking were related to something other than driving. In 2010, homicides (30%) were almost as frequent as traffic incidents (32%) in causing alcohol-related deaths for people ages 15-20. Other major causes of fatality included suicide (14%) and alcohol poisoning (9%).
Since 1980, one of MADD’s founding goals was to educate the public on the dangers of underage drinking. The legal drinking age is based on research showing that those younger than 21 react differently to alcohol than those who are older. Teens can get drunk twice as fast as adults, and often have a harder time knowing when to stop drinking, causing them to binge drink more than adults. While parents may feel that introducing their children to alcohol at home will reduce their risk of drinking heavily elsewhere, MADD warns that studies show just the opposite. More often than not, if a child is allowed to drink at home, they will also believe that their parents are comfortable with them drinking at friends’ houses. If a parent is firm in their stance against underage drinking, studies show that their child will be less likely to binge drink.
The recent case of an ASU student who, engaged in a fraternity drinking game, consumed twenty shots of tequila in one sitting, is a chilling reminder of the tragic outcome we risk when teenagers are exposed to alcohol in an unsupervised setting. This young man, with a blood alcohol content reportedly measured at 0.47% (nearly six times the legal limit for DUI!) was fortunate he did not die of alcohol poisoning. Many other young people, with similar levels of intoxication, were not so lucky.
More and better education of parents, not children, is what is needed here. We are never going to stop all young people from ever experimenting with alcohol. And that should not be our goal. Instead, we should strive to motivate all parents to set firm limits on drinking in the home, and practice constant vigilance as to the availability of alcohol in different settings away from it.