NEWS

Blog: Concerns about underage drinking

Staff Writer
Geneseo Republic

   Health officials offer important articles pertaining to various mental health concerns.  Gail Ripka, member of a task force on underage drinking, states, "Alcohol is the drug of choice among youth.  Many young people are experiencing the consequences of drinking too much, at too early an age.  As a result, underage drinking is a leading public health problem in this country, and even in our county."

   Health officials offer important articles pertaining to various mental health concerns.  Gail Ripka, member of a task force on underage drinking, states, "Alcohol is the drug of choice among youth.  Many young people are experiencing the consequences of drinking too much, at too early an age.  As a result, underage drinking is a leading public health problem in this country, and even in our county."

    Some facts about underage drinking include:

    *  Those who begin drinking before the age 15 are 4 times more likely

to develop alcoholism than those who begin at the age 21.

    *  Each day, 7,000 kids in the United States under the age of 16 take

their first drink.

    *  People aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the

United States.

    *  Alcohol is deadliest drug for America's teenagers: a 16 year old is

more likely to die from an alcohol-related problem than any other cause.

    *  And, underage alcohol use costs the nation an estimated $62 billion

annually!

    In addition, the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys found that 42% of

high school students drank alcohol, while in Stark County that figure jumps

to 62%.  Nationally 24% of students reported binge drinking; 40% of Stark

County students reported binge drinking.  13% of students have driven a

vehicle after drinking and 32% have ridden in a vehicle with a driver who

had been drinking alcohol.

    Why do some adolescents drink?  As children move from adolescence to

young adulthood, they encounter dramatic physical, emotional and life-style

changes.  Developmental transitions, such as puberty and increasing

independence, have been associated with alcohol use.  And when youth drink

they tend to drink intensively, often consuming four to five drinks at one

time.

    Environmental factors, such as the influence of parents and peers, also

play a role in alcohol use.  For example, being a child of an alcoholic or

having several alcoholic family members places a person at greater risk of

alcohol problems.

    Regrettably, too many dismiss underage drinking as a "youthful

indiscretion" or a rite of passage from adolescence into adulthood, and many

underage drinkers are often first presented with alcohol in their own dining

rooms, living rooms and kitchens.  Alcohol is aggressively marketed to

underage drinkers and associated with athletic and social events popular

with high school and college students.  And, too many bars and clubs

knowingly serve underage drinkers, often with a wink and a nod to fake

identification.

    Ripka concludes, "Today, alcohol is widely available and aggressively

promoted throughout our society.  And alcohol use continues to be regarded,

by many people, as a normal part of growing up.  Yet underage drinking is

dangerous, not only for the drinker but also for the community in which they

live, as evident by the number of alcohol-involved motor vehicle crashes,

homicides, suicides and other injuries."