Prevention of underage drinking and alcohol misuse important

By Kim Livingston

Ten-16 Prevention Coordinator
Throughout the years underage drinking has been a recurring, relevant issue. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “underage drinking interferes with brain development. Research shows that young people’s brains keep developing well into their 20’s. Alcohol can alter this development potentially affecting both brain structure and function. This may cause cognitive or learning problems and/or make the brain more prone to alcohol dependence. This is especially a risk when people start drinking young and drink heavily.” (NIAAA, 2017).

Studies have shown there is an increased risk for driver fatality in single-car crashes as blood alcohol content goes up. For those underage, age 16 to 20, that risk steadily increases as a person’s blood alcohol content increases. Also, those who consume alcohol are at a greater risk for more bleeding and swelling in an accident and are less likely to wear a seatbelt.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated, “On average, alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 4,358 young people under age 21 each year. This includes 1,580 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 245 from alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, and drownings.” (CDC, 2016)

According to the Office of Highway Safety Planning, the law for alcohol possession as a minor (MIP) is a civil infraction with fines of up to $100; substance abuse screening/assessment at the violator’s expense; if they are under age 18, their parents will be notified; community service; and no deferral possible as a first-time offender. This information is important because futures can be impacted by MIP citations or operating while under the influence arrests. Many employers, colleges and military recruiters take alcohol-related offenses into consideration when hiring or accepting applicants. (OHSP, 2017)

This article is brought to you in observance of National Prevention Week. NPW is a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-sponsored annual health week dedicated to increasing the prevention of substance use and promotion of mental health. The observance brings individuals, organizations, coalitions, states and communities together through local events to raise awareness about the importance of preventing substance use and mental disorders. For more information or to get help, contact local Prevention Coordinator Kim Livingston at (231) 527-1499.

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