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Is Underage Drinking a Potential Catastrophe?
When reading the news on the internet, television, radio, or even social media, it is customary to hear about people who have been involved in some mishap as a result of being under the influence of alcohol. I've seen many adults and teenagers who are unable to distinguish between what is and is not appropriate drinking. As a result of this, I've been thinking to myself, "To what degree is this topic of alcoholic beverages consumption an issue?" Given that this appears to be a significant issue even to people who should be on the frontline, trying to ward of ordinary people from it, it is a major issue of concern. Cases abound of doctors, teachers, law enforcers and teenagers who have fallen to and been trapped in this vice. I have taken the time to research to try and relate to this issue in order to gain a better understanding. Since school going youth are on the baseline of this vicious pyramid and are at greatest risk if they fall into this vice, I decided to study more on them. My question for this paper, therefore, is: Is underage drinking a catastrophe in waiting?
As a start, I wanted to understand what alcoholism is. It was important because, to study any subject, one needs to be familiar with the topic so as to properly distinguish fact from hearsay. I consulted the Encyclopedia Britannica. According to this online dictionary, Alcoholism is defined as ‘excessive and repetitive drinking of alcoholic beverages to the extent that the drinker repeatedly is harmed or harms others. The harm may be physical or mental; it may also be social, legal, or economic.’ (Keller, Mark, and George Vaillant) I used this source because it gives a comprehensive definition which is accompanied by a background explanation of the same. For instance, the definition continues to describe alcohol as ‘a form of insanity’ this according to the Roman philosopher Seneca. This, for instance, shows that alcoholism has been around for a long time. Although I agree with the given definition, further explanation on the Encyclopedia Britannica give several other definitions that present this problem as more complicated than it seems. It is medically considered a disorder and surprisingly in sociology, it is not considered an addictive behavior according to the website as “The alcoholic is not always under internal pressure to drink and can sometimes resist the impulse to drink or can drink in a controlled way.” (Keller, Mark, and George Vaillant).
Several Google searches on “causes of alcoholism,” “underage drinking” and “effects of underage drinking,” returned several responses. An article by the medical web page emedicinehealth describes alcoholism as having no well-established cause. The page goes further to state that some people may have "genetic and biologic predispositions for this disease" (Cunha, John). The page goes further to say that “…a gene (D2 dopamine receptor gene) that, when inherited in a specific form, might increase a person's chance of developing alcoholism.” Besides this, social factors like peer group influence; family and society play a big role too. In addition, psychological factors like stress, lack of coping mechanisms and fortification of alcohol use by friends contribute to alcoholism too. Further, a conducted study revealed that men have a higher likelihood of suffering alcoholism and harm themselves and worse still score Ds and Fs in school grades. This online page helped me to appreciate the problem further and narrow down to my area of concern, underage drinking. It offers the view that this problem is not easy to wish away and that a lot of work still needs to be done.
Underage drinking is a major challenge as far as public health in the US is concerned. The National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIH) provides numbers to show how far this vice is spread. According to the Institutions website,
By age 15, about 33 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
By age 18, about 60 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
In 2015, 7.7 million young people ages 12–20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month.
("Publications | National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism | Underage Drinking")
As if this is not enough, the report states that “People ages 12 through 20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. Although youth drink less often than adults do, when they do drink, they drink more. That is because young people consume more than 90 percent of their alcohol by binge drinking.” ("Publications | National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism | Underage Drinking"). In terms of gender variation, boys and girls consume alcohol almost at par though boys take slightly more than girls.
These statistics alarmed me given that it is assumed that since adults have higher earning power, they are supposed to drink more. The statistics were saying otherwise. I concluded that these children who are the biggest drinkers must be the greatest sufferers of this habit. This prodded me to go further and look up the consequences of underage drinking.
Many young people die because of this vice. Between 2006-2010, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that across the US, there occurs about 1,580 deaths from motor vehicle crashes,1,269 from homicides, 245 from alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, and drowning and 492 from suicides ("CDC - ARDI - Data Set - Relative Risks And AAF, US, 2010") Apart from deaths, there are other dangers which include: causing injuries when accidents occur, impairing judgment such that youths engage in risky behavior like drinking and driving, unprotected sex, and aggressive and violent behavior, increasing the risk of physical and sexual assault, creating trouble with the school or the law and possibly other drugs abuse, alcohol dependence in later life and finally interference with brain development. ("Publications | National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism | Underage Drinking"). Through this research, I gained useful insight into how terrible this problem is. I was able to connect underage drinking with a lot of problems for young people.
Thinking about the research, the drinking of alcohol by underage children is, to say the least, totally unacceptable and a great disaster. What is of concern to me now is the way forward in completely eradicating this vice. I am persuaded as I complete this paper that the youth of this country deserve better as far as this subject is concerned. With specific regard to causes of alcoholism, I would like to delve further into the genetic aspect and the other causes so as to demystify and get a clear picture that makes this subject elusive to get conclusive causes and definitions. For me, however, I have the conviction that children should be protected from this vice by all means.
Cunha, John. "Alcoholism Causes, Symptoms, Treatment - What Causes Alcoholism? - Emedicinehealth". Emedicinehealth, 2017, http://www.emedicinehealth.com/alcoholism/page2_em.htm#what_causes_alcoholism.
Keller, Mark, and George Vaillant. "Alcoholism". Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/science/alcoholism
"Publications | National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism | Underage Drinking". Pubs.Niaaa.Nih.Gov, 2017, https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/UnderageDrinking/UnderageFact.htm.
"CDC - ARDI - Data Set - Relative Risks And AAF, US, 2010". Nccd.Cdc.Gov, 2017, https://nccd.cdc.gov/DPH_ARDI/DataSets/RelativeRiskData.aspx?SetID=d7a9b303-48e9-4440-bf47-070a4827e1fd&Mode=View.
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