4 minutes reading time (872 words)

Let’s Get Back to Discussing Underage Drinking

Young-girl-with-Beer-Bottle

Next month is observed as Alcohol Awareness Month. This observe was initiated as a way to increase awareness of alcohol addiction and also as a way to bring understanding of alcohol's causes, that effective treatments are available, and encouraging people recovery is very possible.

Alcohol Awareness Month was established in 1987 by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. The idea was then and is now to help communities reach out to the public and provide answers to end the stigma associated with alcohol abuse.

For parents, this is a great time to remind you of New Jersey's law on alcohol consumption by those under the age of 21.The law states: A person under the age of 21 years old who knowingly possesses alcohol will be fined at least $500. The minor may also have his or her driving privileges suspended for six months. In addition the court may also require the minor to participate in an alcohol education program. Source: 2c:33-15 possession. N.J. Stat. § 33:1-81

Fact is that underage drinking is a leading public health problem in the United States with comprehensive stats showing it is the drug of choice for American teens and young adults. Rates of underage drinking and substance abuse are noticeably higher in urban areas than suburban and rural areas. Possible reasons for this are that urban areas have more stores that sell alcohol; display more alcohol ads; and are often too preoccupied with gang activity to address underage drinking.

So to parents, why is this important?

While the causes of childhood and teenage alcohol abuse include many social, psychological and behavioral factors, being the child of an alcoholic or having several alcoholic family members is highly correlated with underage drinking. Children of alcoholics are between 4 and 10 times more likely to become alcoholics than peers with no alcoholic relatives. Children of alcoholics are also more likely to begin drinking at a young age and to develop alcohol abuse problems more rapidly.

Advertising and peer pressure (the single strongest factor) also impact whether and when underage drinking begins. Peers tend to have major sway when it comes to drinking choices, since teens may feel pressured to drink in order to fit in.

Other common risk factors for underage drinking include stress at home or school; family problems; a history of behavioral or mental health problems; or life transitions such as moving and changing schools. And keep in mind that youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience

  • School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
  • Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
  • Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
  • Physical and sexual assault.
  • Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
  • Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
  • Memory problems.
  • Misuse of other drugs.
  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
  • Death from alcohol poisoning.

Parents of children and teenagers exhibiting the warning signs of underage drinking are urged to intervene immediately. Many treatment options are available, and swift intervention could prevent long-term problems. Talk to your teen about the risks of underage drinking today.

For more information on alcohol addiction, treatment, prevention and rehab for teens, please explore our website at https://wellspringprevention.org.

There is much folks could do to help present Underage Drinking.

Search the web for publications by the Surgeon General and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine); they provide many strategies for the prevention of underage drinking, such as enforcement of minimum legal drinking age laws, campaigns targeting youth and adults, increasing alcohol excise taxes, reducing youth exposure to alcohol advertising, and development of comprehensive community-based programs. If you are interested, you could join the Middlesex County Coalition for Healthy Communities to see how you could get involved. Go here to learn more https://wellspringprevention.org/coalition-for-healthy-communities,

And, while the State of New Jersey has not criminalized underage drinking on private property, keep in mind that many municipalities in NJ have local laws prohibiting underage drinking on private property, such as in a backyard at a barbecue. In many cases, these are civil offenses, not crimes, although it would be unwise to take them lightly. In Middlesex County alone, 19 of 25 municipalities have passed such legislation. In Somerset County, only 9 out of 22 have passed such ordinances.

So please, as a parent, I ask you to keep a couple of statistics close to your heart:

  • Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year, and cost the U.S. $24 billion in economic costs.
  • Although the purchase of alcohol by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States.
  • More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.
  • In 2013, there were approximately 119,000 emergency rooms visits by persons aged 12 to 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.


Thank you for your time and consideration.

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