Underage Drinking in North Carolina and the USA: Sobering Facts
When was the last time you stopped and considered the consequences of underage drinking? The dangers of underage drinking are more than just lip-service. As a matter of fact, they are a very serious problem that affects an entire generation of young Americans.
Underage Drinking Affects Children from Middle School to College
The issue is more widespread than most parents realize.
Preparing yourself with the facts is the first step in preventing your child
from falling into the trap of underage drinking. The problem isn’t unique to
older teens. The study found that over 15 percent of children between the ages
of 12 and 20 used alcohol within the last month. That’s 176,000 people. Of
those, 113,000 were aged 18 to 20 years old. We’ll go through the report and
look at how underage drinking affects children of different ages, starting with
Underage Drinking Has Dire Consequences on College Campuses
Many people may roll their eyes and say that we’re merely
stating the obvious. Tailgates and toga parties have long been a stereotype of
college life. Because of this, it’s easy to underplay the seriousness of
alcohol on college campuses. What people don’t know is how far the
repercussions of underage drinking reach.
Underage Drinking Brings Down Grades
One glaring area where we see the effects of underage
drinking is in its impact on grades. A report
by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that one in
four college students said they experienced academic consequences as a result
of underage drinking. These academic consequences were much worse than the
occasional missed homework assignment. The far-reaching repercussions included
missing classes and falling behind as a result. Drinking in college also
directly correlates to performing worse on exams and papers. This results in
lower grades overall, which can have a profound impact on a student’s future.
The numbers are even worse for college binge drinkers. Those who drank alcohol a minimum of three times per week were about six times more likely to perform worse on a test than students that didn’t drink. Furthermore, they were five times more likely to have missed a class. It isn’t hard to see why underage drinking is not a smart decision for students.
College Drinking Correlates with Assault and Sexual Assault
The adverse effects of underage drinking on academic performance are clear. However, many people don’t consider the more serious consequences that come as a result of college drinking. A report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) shows that nearly 696,000 students between the ages of 18 to 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. In addition, the same report reveals that 97,000 students between 18 and 24 report that they have experienced alcohol-related sexual assault.
College Students are Dying Due to Underage Drinking
You might not think that it can get any worse than that, but
it does. The study reports that close to 1,825 college students in the same age
range die from alcohol-related injuries. This also includes motor vehicle
crashes. The SAMHSA study also shows that there were 145 alcohol-attributable
deaths in North Carolina alone in 2018.
We can see that underage drinking on college campuses is a
serious problem that goes far deeper than a bad grade in biology.
Unfortunately, the problem impacts much more than just students on campus. High
schoolers and young children are also at significant risk for underage
High Schoolers and Middle Schoolers Are Also at Risk
Of the same 176,000 people who drank alcohol in the last
month, 52,000 were between the ages of 15 and 17. That’s 13 percent of the
population in that age range. What’s more, 11,000 of those that drank alcohol
were between the ages of 12 and 14. In fact, the average age at
which most youths try alcohol for the first time is 14 years old.
While many parents may associate underage drinking with
children in high school and college, the truth is that it starts much earlier.
This is why it’s so important for parents to be proactive in talking about
underage drinking with their children.
Why Do Children Drink and How Can We Prevent It?
Why are so many children drinking underage? What can parents
do to combat this serious problem before it becomes a crisis? The first part is
recognizing why children are drinking in the first place. These are just a few
of the reasons that may motivate someone underage to drink alcohol:
Pressures of school
Problems in relationships
Situations at home
As a coping mechanism
An attempt to “fit in” or “look cool”
Not understanding the risks
It’s important for parents and teachers to recognize these
potential risk factors and use them as an opportunity to talk with their
children or students. Often, children are looking for an outlet through which
they can express their frustrations or worries. Sitting down and taking the
time to ask how a child is doing and starting the
conversation goes a long way to preventing them from resorting to underage
We Have to Work Together to Stop Underage Drinking
We know that most of North Carolina’s youth think underage
drinking is a problem. A study
by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission shows that 94
percent of them feel it is a major issue. The problem is that many of the
adults in North Carolina don’t feel the same way. The NC ABC study found that
less than half of NC parents think it’s a serious problem. This is where
education about the true depth of the issue comes into play.
It is incumbent upon all of us to work together in our
efforts to prevent underage drinking. A critical part of prevention is paying
attention. Look out for the issues listed above. See if they line up with warning
signs that may indicate that someone is drinking. There are a number of warning signs
parents can watch out for, but here are some that adults should recognize:
Problems at school or a drop in grades
Severe changes in mood
A depressed state or attitude that “nothing
Changes in their group of friends
Physical or mental issues you have not noticed
If you see any of these problems, it may indicate a larger
underlying issue. In these situations, it’s important not to jump to
conclusions or overreact. This may drive the child further away. The key is
having a calm, measured conversation where you discuss why they may be
drinking, how it’s affecting them, and what you can do to help. We have a few
tips for parents and adults that can help them start the conversation.
Ask open-ended questions
Look for the right opportunity
Use age-appropriate messages
Sometimes, it can feel as though parents are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to underage drinking. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if children don’t always show it, they’re always listening. Parents make more of a difference than they realize. Together, we can stop underage drinking and prevent our children from becoming one of these sobering statistics. Take the pledge with your teen to stop underage drinking today.