By: Melissa Colleary
Underage drinking is a problem that is too often swept under the rug due to the belief that “kids will be kids”. While the perception tends to be that alcohol use is an acceptable rite of passage, underage drinking is illegal and potentially deadly.
Each year, there are reports of teenagers and young adults ending a night of partying in the emergency room, and on occasion, obituaries for those who don’t survive. The New York State Department of Health reported that in 2013, there were over 100,000 alcohol-related emergency visits in New York State[i] and Newsday reported that between 2010 and 2015, over 350 individuals on Long Island died as a result of binge drinking[ii].
These casualties and injuries can be avoided.
Alcohol use is glamourized in the media, leading young people to believe that drinking will make them more fun, more popular, and easier to talk to. In reality, consuming large amounts of alcohol can make an individual sick, act in a way they normally wouldn’t, or lead to serious injury.
Underage drinking is by no means an isolated issue plaguing some communities and not others. Instead, high school students throughout all of New York State are drinking, often in excess. According to the December 2015 Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking, approximately 29% of youth ages 12 to 20 reported using alcohol in the past 30 days and about 17.4% reported binge drinking in the past 30 days[iii].
High rates of alcohol use among teens and young adults are due, in part, to social norms and the acceptance of alcohol use by parents and peers; accessibility; lack of knowledge about the risks associated with drinking; a desire to fit in; and even boredom.
Although obstacles are present, underage drinking is preventable. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that youth who have a trusting relationship with their parents are less likely to engage in drinking[iv]. By openly engaging with your child daily, conversations about alcohol use can have a positive impact on their decision making.
As adults, caregivers, and educators, it is our job to ensure the safety of young people, particularly when it comes to underage drinking.
Join the Long Island Association for AIDS Care at the Brentwood Public Library on August 30, 2016 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for the 2016 Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking. This meeting will mobilize our communities to become more educated and take action to prevent underage drinking. The forum will provide insights on topics related to drunk driving, support services available in the Brentwood community, the consequences for those who engage in underage drinking, and the importance of early intervention as means to deter potential alcohol and drug use.
[i] New York State Department of Health. New York State All Payer Emergency Room Visits (2013). Table 3. (https://health.ny.gov/statistics/sparcs/sb/docs/sb8.pdf)
[ii] Deutsch, Kevin. Newsday. Binge Drinking Killed 354 People on Long Island in the Past 5 Years, Records Show. (April 11, 2015) (http://www.newsday.com/long-island/binge-drinking-killed-354-people-on-long-island-over-the-past-5-years-records-show-1.10241133).
[iii] The December 2015 Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking (2015). P. 676 (https://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/media/ReportToCongress/2015/state_reports/new_york_profile.pdf)
[iv] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Contributing Factors and What you Can Do. (http://www.samhsa.gov/underage-drinking-topic/contributing-factors-what-you-can-do)