The use of alcohol in the society is widespread. Many people have indulged in alcohol drinking at various stages in their lives. Most people in the social settings have termed this behavior as a moral degenerate. There are many reasons why people engage in alcohol drinking, and the effects are numerous. The consumption of alcohol among the youth has become an issue of much debate in the global society. Many teenagers are perpetrating this behavior in the society, something that has attracted much criticism in the whole world. Alcohol consumption in the United States by the youth is a serious epidemic. This paper explores the causes and the effects of underage drinking among the youths and the teens in the US. The various programs adopted in order to prevent this behavior in the society are also discussed.
Underage drinking can be said to be the alcohol consumption behavior among the group of people who are under the age of 21 years (Johnson 1). This behavior is most rampant in the developed countries, and age laws in alcohol drinking are taking a new dimension. The age limit for alcohol consumption varies from country to country. Many underage people who engage in drinking are high school and college students (Johnson 1). Most schools in the United States are faced by this problem, and the prevention methods are no longer effective. This is because the legal regulations and the law enforcement procedures are not sufficiently followed (Johnson 1). This reluctant enforcement has contributed to the pronounced alcohol consumption in the youth. However, most countries are putting efforts to curb this heinous behavior.
Causes of underage drinking in the society
The modern world has seen many changes occur in the social setups. The traditional codes of behavior have effaced, and new ways of living are changing the society in different ways. Many laws have been enacted and others amended in order to address the problem of underage drinking in the society. However, most youths and teens are still entangled in the dangerous and risky behavior of alcohol consumption. The likelihood of youngsters engaging in alcohol drinking has risen in the recent past (NIAAA). For example, 75 percent of 12th graders and more than 60 percent of 10th graders in the United States consume alcohol (NIAAA). All these groups comprise of youngsters who are of less than twenty years of age. The youth in the society give various reasons as to why they engage in alcohol consumption.
Early introduction to alcohol consumption has become one of the major reasons for underage alcoholism in the United States. Apparently, children whose parents are alcoholic start drinking at a very early stage in their lives (NIAAA). As NIAAA reports, a child who is brought up in a family where most of the members are alcohol drinkers stands a great risk of consuming alcohol at an earlier stage, than a child who lives in a family where alcohol is not consumed (NIAAA). This occurrence is a remarkable cause of underage drinking in the United States. The family setups must be change in order to avoid this problem. These youths admit to having been introduced to alcohol drinking by their parents and other relatives when they were young (NIAAA). The drinking patterns in the United States are notably rooted from the family codes of behavior, and this is a major cause of underage drinking.
Peer pressure is perhaps the main cause of underage drinking. This pressure is also a notable cause for other antisocial behaviors in the society among the young people. In the United States and other countries in general, peers spend so much time together, for example in academic institutions, social get-togethers and working environments (NIAAA). This has become a major cause for underage drinking in the American youths in their society. There is always a general tendency for the young people to seek independence by spending most time with their friends. This poses a greater risk of the youngsters trying to adventure in the world of drugs (U.S Department of Health and Human Services 7). Peer pressure leads to the exaggerated desire by the young people to engage in various anti social behaviors in the society. Students in the schools tend to form several kinds of groups, and they can most likely be influenced by the decisions of one of them in order to showcase their solidarity. This grouping can end up tying the members to alcohol consumption, especially when they are far from their homes (NIAAA).
The human development occurs in various stages of life. The change from childhood to adulthood, commonly called the adolescent stage is the worst stage in terms of underage drinking. Most of the youngsters in this stage experience physical and emotional changes, which are greatly possible to be causes of antisocial behaviors (NIAAA). As NIAAA writes, the developmental changes are mainly reasons why most young people seek independence, and as a result they engage in drug and substance abuse (NIAAA). Alcohol consumption in the youth is widespread, because they tend to have greater tolerance to the effects of drinking than their adult fellows (NIAAA). Most of the young people consume larger amounts of alcohol because of their sensitivity and tolerances are higher than those of the adults (NIAAA).
Another developmental factor that leads to underage drinking is the personality structure. As earlier discussed, children who live in families where most of the family members are alcoholics tend to develop certain personal characteristics, which may promote the alcohol consumption among the young people. These children may experience stress from their families, and are usually anxious (NIAAA). These are characteristics which may possibly drive young people to alcohol consumption in the society (NIAAA). Most of them are rebellious, because of the family tensions that exist in the families, like spousal fights in their presence. Thus, as a way of escaping from the realities that they face, most of them engage in alcoholism at the tender ages. This can also be said to be the result of hereditary traits. For example, the alcohol tolerance in people tends to follow hereditary factors in life. Children whose parents are alcoholics are highly possible to indulge in alcohol because of the hereditary structure of their bodies (NIAAA).
The drinking patterns in the society are causes of underage drinking. Thus development of the society in terms of social behaviors can lead to drug and substance abuse among the youth (Bonnie 16). The drinking behaviors portrayed by the adults influence the drinking behaviors in the youth. Thus, the societal development is linked with the underage drinking. For example, underage drinking would most likely increase in the United States if the minimum age for drinking would be lowered from 21 years (Bonnie 16). As Bonnie writes, the underage drinking is related to the societal development, whereby if the society is advocating for drinking, then most young people will engage in alcohol drinking at their lower ages.
Effects of underage drinking in the society
Alcohol consumption has adverse effects in the society. Virtually everybody in the society knows at least one effect of alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption among the youth has particular effects that must be addressed soon, before the society realizes just how bad they have eaten into the ways of living. Most youths do not possess the necessary reasoning capabilities, and in many occasions, the decisions they make are not sound from the moral point of view. Some of the effects of alcohol consumption are fatal, and others detrimental and injurious. Underage drinking has both short and long term effects, and almost all of them are disadvantageous to the victims and the society as a whole.
The underage drinking poses some serious health concerns to the victim of the act. For example, a recent study in the US has proved that the alcohol consumption among the youngsters causes damage to the brain cells, which affect the entire development of the brain (Oak). This is a major blow to the young alcoholics in the society, which can even lead to death. Many health research studies show that the physical development of the brain is negatively affected by the alcohol consumption among the young people (Oak). This is because it leads to the decline in the memory status of the brain, which in turn causes disorders in attention of the victims (Oak). Thus, underage drinking has a remarkable health effect to the alcoholics, especially those of the younger ages. These mental health problems caused by the underage drinking lead to troubled socialization among the youths, and the victims may become social outcasts (Johnson 2). Most of the victims become reckless mentally impaired by this behavior.
Apart from the brain damage, underage drinking is also a major cause for liver and endocrine failures in the victims (NIAAA). Alcohol consumption leads to damage in the liver enzymes, which poses a great danger to the life of the victim because of the failure in the liver roles in the body (NIAAA). In terms of the endocrine problems, drinking during the adolescent stage interferes with the hormonal balances in the victim (NIAAA). This leads to inefficient growth of the various body organs and muscles, caused by the damage in the hormones by alcoholism (NIAAA). Hence, in order for the proper growth of body organs during the puberty or the adolescent stage, young people should be discouraged from the drinking behavior.
The perpetrators of this social evil are mostly school going youths in the high schools and the colleges. Due to the indulgence in this behavior of underage drinking, most of these youths may skip classes and study discussions in order to go searching for the drinks (Johnson 3). This leads to drop in academic performances for these individuals, since they do not pay much attention to the academic needs required of them. School work in the alcoholics falls down the pecking order of the priorities, and as a result, the victims may end up scoring poorly in the class. This is the pronounced effect of underage drinking among the school going victims, since most of them miss classes in preference to drinking (Johnson 3). For example, underage drinking is the reason why most students in the colleges score low grades in the United States (Oak). Underage drinkers engage in many other activities that are not favorable to the learning environment, and thus they do not concentrate much on their learning. They spend much time in the bars and other drinking joints, especially the college students. This leads to academic downfall to the victims, as a result of underage drinking.
Cause of suicide
Suicide is an experience that can ever happen to a human being. It may be caused by several factors relating to psychological disturbances in the victim, but alcohol has been noted as a possible cause of this evil action (Oak). Alcoholic behaviors often lead to psychological disorders such as stress and depression among the users. As Oak writes, depression is one of the major causes of suicide, and it usually results fro excessive drinking among the youngsters (Oak). Underage drinking affects the victims’ mental stability, which interferes with the psychological well being of the victim (Oak). This leads to the escapist thoughts which may make the victims to harm themselves physically, and some of them contemplate suicide (Oak). Thus, underage drinking is a cause of suicides in terms of effects to the psychological traits in the victims. For example, many of the youngster suicides are majorly effects of underage drinking (Oak). Over consumption of alcohol can therefore lead to antisocial behaviors in the society, some of which are fatal like in the case of suicidal activities.
Motor vehicle deaths
Drink driving is a widespread epidemic in the United States. Underage drinking is closely related to drink driving (Milkman, Timken & Wanberg 123). Most countries have put in place driving regulations, but the delinquent behaviors among the youths in the United States have resulted to drink driving (Milkman, Timken & Wanberg 123). Accidents from drunk drivers have been discovered as the greatest cause for deaths of youths who are between 15 and 20 years of age in the United States (White 166). also, underage drivers who are usually under the influence of alcohol cause more than 14 percent of all fatal accidents in the United states, which is a significant proportion of fatal accidents in that country (White 166).
Teenage pregnancy and STDs
Premarital sexual behaviors are rampant among the underage drinkers. This leads to unwanted pregnancies among the victims. Most of the teenage girls are most likely to involve themselves in unplanned and unprotected sex, mainly under the influence of alcohol. For example, many girls admit to having found themselves in situations where they practice unprotected sex with their drunken partners (Ellul 38). This is also a major cause of the sexually transmitted diseases among the teenage girls in the society. This is because the teenage girls do not adequately understand the possible effects of unwanted pregnancies and the sexually transmitted disease in the society. Underage drinking among the teenage girls can lead to sexual harassment, and in such incidences, one may find herself infected with the STDs. For example, most drunk teenagers do not appropriately chose their sexual partners, some even are raped when they totally drunk (Ellul 38). It is highly likely for drunken girls to perform sexual activities with unrecognized partners, and this is a very dangerous risk for a girl to engage in (Ellul 38). This causes stigma to the victims who get infected or impregnated by their drinking partners.
Underage drinking can lead to addiction to alcohol, because the body gets used to the alcoholic effects. The addiction problem is most pronounced in victims who engage in alcoholism from a young age (Oak). This group of addicts portrays risky behaviors in the society, and many socially unacceptable incidences occur among these addicts. Early addiction is a problem that can really lead to adult antisocial behaviors, because the youngsters grow with bad mentalities about the society. They are involved in alcohol consumption at high degrees, and the majority of the (NIAAA).
Bing drinking and legal consequences
Most of the underage drinkers often face the wrath of law enforcement. They are arrested and charged for various offences, which they usually commit under the influence of alcohol. Binging is a delinquent behavior that is largely associated with underage drinking (White 164). This behavior mostly occurs in schools, and the abusers of alcohol mainly commit other crimes. Binge drinkers often engage in physical fights, due to the influence of alcohol (White 164). Most of the offenders are arrested by the police, and legal actions are taken against them (White 164). Misuse of alcohol among the youth is illegal, and thus virtually all those found committing various kinds of crimes as a result of drinking are legally prosecuted by the law enforcers (White 164).
Prevention of underage drinking
Education is necessary for preventing underage drinking (Learn About Alcoholism). Victims of underage drinking should be offered educational programs that are aimed at rehabilitating them. They should be taught about the effects of alcohol consumption in the society and the negative impacts that result from indulgence in alcohol consumption (Hanson). Education programs can lead to the creation of awareness to the society, thus possibly preventing the occurrence of underage drinking in the society.
Treatment and therapy practices can also be used to prevent the adverse effects of underage drinking in the society. For example, those who are diagnosed at an earlier stage should be taken to rehabilitation centers for therapy treatments and other programs that may help in preventing this behavior (NIAAA). However, prevention is better than cure, thus the best way to curb the problem of underage drinking is to avoid the indulgence in the behavior.
The law enforcers must take stronger actions in order to curb the problem of underage drinking in the society (Hanson). Those who are found to perpetrate in this antisocial behaviors should be confronted by the regulatory systems of the government, which include the courts, through legal procedures (Ellul 38). This would see the behavior decline in the society, since the youth would be aware of the legal consequences of the underage drinking. Municipal courts should also take part in the prevention of this behavior, since they are closer to the people than the state governments.
Underage drinking is a problem that the society must fight to the end. This is because the alcoholism behavior among the young people has many negative impacts to the society. The government should initiate programs to efface this problem from the society. The family has also a role to play in bringing up children in an upright manner, in order to prevent underage drinking in the society. Teachers in the schools should include lessons concerning the dangers of underage drinking to scare the teenagers away from this social evil. In terms of health awareness, the medical professionals should explain to the youths and other members of the society the dangers of alcohol consumption. Lastly, the law enforcers have to do their part. Police should develop correctional facilities that are aimed at curbing the problem of underage drinking in the society.
Ellul Duncan Aaron Borg. Risk Perception, Awareness and Prevention Measures to reduce underage drinking and the illegal purchase of alcohol in Malta. Florida: Universal Publishers, 2008.
Hanson, David. J. “Underage Drinking.” Postdam, 2006. Web: November 8th 2010 from: http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/UnderageDrinking.html
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Milkman Harvey B, Timken David S and Wanberg Kenneth W. Driving with care: education and treatment of the underage impaired driving offender: an adjunct provider’s guide to driving with care. New York: SAGE publications, 2010
NIAAA. “Why Do Adolescents Drink, What Are the Risks, and How Can Underage Drinking Be Prevented?” National Institute of Health, 2006. Web: November 8th 2010 from: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa67/aa67.htm
Oak Manali. Consequences of underage Drinking. Buzzle 2009. November 8th 2010 from: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/consequences-of-underage-drinking.html
U.S Department of Health and Human Services. “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking.” National Institute of Health, 2007. Web: November 8th 2010 from http://www.google.com/search?q=effects+of+underage+drinking&hl=en
White, Susan O. Handbook of Youth and Justice. New York: Plenum Publishers. 2001