Underage, Underestimated

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Underage, Underestimated
An estimated 5,000 teens under the age of 21 die each year as a result of underage drinking. Teens who consume alcohol introduce themselves to the risk of severe, life changing health risks. Underage drinking is a factor in nearly half of all homicides, suicides, and motor vehicle crashes for teens (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). Almost 80% of high school students that have tried alcohol are not following the National Minimum Legal Drinking Age, of 21 years old. Underage drinking should be discouraged because there are serious health risks associated with it, it causes thousands of deaths each year, and it is illegal. Underage alcohol use contributes to many health risks associated with the brain. The human brain is continuing to develop until a person is around age 25. Exposing the brain to alcohol during this period may interrupt key processes of brain development, possibly leading to mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment is a form of brain damage. This can impair the brain development, causing memory lapses or processing and sending brain impulses slower. In other words, it will lead to long lasting intellectual capabilities. Finally, since the key areas of the brain are still continuing to develop during the teen years, the brain is more sensitive to the toxic effects of alcohol. These health risks associated with the brain will later lead to alcohol dependence (Shannon).

Another health risk associated with underage drinking is alcohol dependence or addiction. The younger someone is when they start drinking, the greater their chance of becoming addicted to alcohol at some point in their life. More than four in ten people who begin drinking before age 15 eventually become an alcoholic. Drinking alcohol as a teen can lead to further escalation of drinking in years to come. People who reported they started to drink before the age of 15 were four times more likely to also report meeting the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). Similar to alcohol dependence, sexual intercourse and rape may be results of underage drinking.

Sexual intercourse and rape are other health risks that can be caused by underage drinking. Research suggests that alcohol use by the offender, the victim, or both, increases the likelihood of sexual assault by a male acquaintance. Youth who drink not only are more likely to have sexual intercourse, but they are also more likely to become pregnant and contract sexually transmitted diseases. Current teen drinkers are more than twice as likely to have sexual intercourse within the past three months than teens who don’t drink. In one survey, approximately ten percent of female high school students have reported being raped (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Outcomes of underage drinking may be more severe and lethal. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of deaths for teens 15 to 20 years old. Each year, approximately 1,900 deaths are caused by motor vehicle crashes as a result of underage drinking. The rate of fatal crashes among drivers 16 to 20 years old involved with alcohol is twice the rate for alcohol- involved drivers that are 21 years old and older. Adolescents are already the most inexperienced drivers on the road, and in addition to this, when adolescents consume alcohol, their judgement is impaired and they become more susceptible to crashes. In 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 951 drivers 16 to 20 years old involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes had a blood alcohol concentration over the legal adult limit of 0.08. After motor vehicle crashes, the second leading cause of death for youth between ages 15 and 21 is homicide (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). There are approximately 1,600 deaths each year as a result of homicides caused by underage drinking. The use of...
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