Studies show that alcoholism is directly linked to underage drinking. According to Parast, Meredith, Stein, Shadel, and D’Amico (2018), “alcohol is the most commonly used substance among adolescents in the United States” (p. 508). Although the legal drinking age in the United States is 21, 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States is by people aged 12-20 (CDC, 2018). The CDC (2018) reports the results from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey as 30% drank some amount of alcohol, 14% binge drank, and 6% drove after drinking alcohol.
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines alcoholism as a disease that causes cravings, loss of control, physical dependence, and loss of tolerance. Too much drinking can have a negative impact on an individual’s health as well as their ability to function on a day-to-day basis. According to Alcohol Rehab Guide, “alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse and involves the inability to manage drinking habits.” Alcoholism can cause individuals to feel as though they are unable to function without alcohol. This can lead to problems at school, work, personal goals, relationships, and overall health (Alcohol Rehab Guide).
The topic of alcoholism is an interest of mine because it affects people in my family as well as the families of some of my close friends. In conversation about alcoholism in our families, it was determined that there was a common factor; they all started drinking at an early age. Alcoholism is an individual problem that is linked to a larger societal problem, underage drinking.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “underage drinking is a serious public health problem in the United States.” It is not just a problem for some families, rather, it is a nationwide concern (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). People who start drinking before the age of 15 are 4 times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism 33% of teens have had at least 1 drink by the age of 15, about 60% of teens have had at least 1 drink by the age of 18, and 1.3 million young people have reported binge drinking on 5 or more days over the past month.
Underage drinking may be caused by several factors that could include accessibility and peer pressure. Accessibility was the main factor for the children in my family. My parents as well as many of their siblings drank alcohol, therefore, it we always easy access to alcohol. I can remember conversations when my cousins would tell us (those that were not drinking) that we were babies and they were grown because they could “handle alcohol.” We also heard stories of how good the alcohol made them feel, so we should “just try it.” Although accessibility was a major factor, the pressure to fit in with the “cool” cousins also played a major role in some of my family members drinking at an early age.
The Effects of Underage Drinking and Alcoholism on My Life
Many people in my family started drinking alcohol at a very young age. At the time, there was no concern of the effects of alcohol. Alcohol abuse can affect our lives in so many ways. I have lost many young people in family due to alcohol abuse. The experience of losing loved ones to excessive consumption of alcohol has brought more adherence to my life. The concern of the now younger generations of my family, the health of my family and their family lives keeps me on edge and to always pray and encourage family to be aware of the troll that alcoholism can have on our lives.
There are several reasons in which adolescents feel the need to drink alcohol. These reasons may include peer pressure and just wanting to be rebellious. Whatever the reason may be, adolescents do not think of the long term effects that are caused by underage drinking. Alcoholism is a serious problem that is caused by an even more serious problem, underage drinking. Like me, many others have lost loved ones due to alcoholism. It is important for parents that keep alcohol in the home to ensure it is stored in a locked cabinet. Also, employees at stores should ensure that they are checking the ID of individuals who are purchasing alcohol. Although there is no 100% guarantee that individuals under age 21 will not be able to access alcohol, there should be an obligation for parents and cashiers to ensure they are meeting their part to keep adolescents from accessing alcohol.
Alcohol Rehab Guide. (n.d). What is alcoholism? Retrieved from https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/alcohol
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Fact Sheets-Underage Drinking. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation (n.d.). Early drinking a strong predictor of alcoholism. Retrieved from https://www.hazelden.org/web/public/prev60807.page
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Underage Drinking. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occuring-disorders/underage-drinking