According to the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism the use of alcohol by people under the age of 21 is unsafe, unhealthy, and unacceptable. This is a problem that needs to be addressed by communities across Wisconsin, now, to assure that our youth reach their full potential in life.
Alcohol is unsafe because it is a factor in the deaths of more than 4,300 youth and young adults every year in the United States. This is broken down as: 1,580 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,269 homicides, 492 suicides, and 245 from alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, and drownings.
Alcohol use by this age group is unhealthy because the brain is still developing and is not complete until a person is well into their 20’s. Alcohol can alter brain development. Youth and young persons who drink are more likely to have behavioral issues in school that result in poor academic performance, suspensions, and expulsions. People who start drinking before the age of 15 are more likely to have an alcohol use disorder later in life.
Alcohol use by underage people is unacceptable. A person under the age of 21 caught drinking alcohol and or buying or trying to buy alcohol may be fined up to $500.00. First time offenders also face a suspension of their driver’s license. Adults may be fined up to $500.00 for failing to stop underage drinking, and they also may be fined up to $500.00 for illegally providing alcohol to people under the age of 21.
There are many ways a community can prevent underage drinking. One strategy is to address the acceptability, availability, attractiveness, and affordability of alcohol in the home and in the community. Don’t make alcohol part of everyday living. Don’t have alcohol available to underage people. Don’t advertise alcohol products where youth and young adults can easily see it. To make it less affordable, encourage business owners to discontinue “buy one, get one free” offers and similar pricing promotions.
Our youth are our future. As a community it is up to us to try to instill good values and provide positive role models for or youth to look up to. There has never been a more important time than now to try to make changes to ensure a bright future for our youth.
For more information about underage drinking call the Forest County Health Department. For more statistics go to https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/underage-drinking