Alcohol can be just as addictive as any other substance. The big difference lies in the fact that it is legal for those over 21, and easily attainable whether you are of age or not. Drinking does not have an age limit, and adolescents are generally exposed to alcohol during their high school years. Teenagers at this age are still developing physically and mentally, and most are incapable and/or completely unaware of the consequences of underage drinking. These consequences extend to mental, physical, and legal damage. This blog serves to outline the dangers of underage drinking and its potential outcomes.
Health and Societal Impact
When a brain is developing, the reward center is the first to mature. This means that the desire for pleasure is greater than a teenager’s ability to make proper decisions. Their ability to control their impulses is very low, and when this lack of personal management is paired with alcohol, dangerous situations are bound to happen.
You’re at a party, you’ve been drinking, and you need to go home. You told your parents you were just going over to a friend’s for a casual evening, when in reality they were throwing a party where you decided to have a few drinks. You can’t tell your parents the truth and your judgement is impaired: seemingly, the only option is to drive home despite being intoxicated.
Considering that the number one cause of accident-related death in teens is car crashes, and a quarter of those deaths are attributed to drunk driving, this is a situation that adolescents find themselves in far too often. As mentioned, the ability to make sound decisions isn’t at the top of the teenage brain’s list. First comes reward, and the rest follows. Educating your sons and daughters on the fatal dangers of drunk driving is imperative in helping them understand the severity of the drug, and that it should be avoided until they have developed to a point where they can use responsibly.
Alcohol goes both ways when it comes to sexual assault. When a person drinks beyond their limits, they can experience memory loss, black-outs, or find themselves in a state of deep unconsciousness. The person being assaulted may be intoxicated to the point where they are unaware of what is happening. The drunk offender’s judgement might be so skewed that they engage in behaviors classified as sexual assault. This impairment does not, by any means, discount the responsibility of the offender. The influence of alcohol won’t excuse you from being added to the sexual offender registry, which is actually one of the reasons that some young people find themselves on that list.
Sexual assault in itself is a horrible thing, but its repercussions extend far beyond unsolicited touches or intercourse. Sexual assault can end in pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, some of which are life-long and incurable.
If caught drinking underage, minors can be charged with an MIC (Minor in Consumption), a class 2 misdemeanor, or an MIP (Minor in Possession), a class 1 misdemeanor. MIP’s in Arizona have the potential to lead to:
- Up to 180 days in jail
- A class 1 misdemeanor on your permanent record
- Over $4000 in fines
- Imposed alcohol classes or counseling
- License suspension for those under 18 years of age
- Up to three years of probation
- Community service and restitution
These things can, and do, happen. Young adults have the tendency to believe that they’re invincible: they can do what they want, when they want, where they want. They tend to underestimate the dangers and consequences of their actions until it’s too late. This can be attributed to the partially developed prefrontal cortex, containing the amygdala whose function is to regulate decisions and impulsive behavior. You might think that walking from house party to house party poses no harm, but when a police officer stops you for questioning, the situation becomes very real, very quickly.
About 5,000 young adults under the age of 21 die every year as a result of alcohol-related injuries. This not only includes motor vehicle accidents, but accounts of homicide and suicide. Heavy alcohol use can trigger violent behavior in any user. In younger adults, lack of good judgement paired with the inability to evaluate a situation can have tragic results. Homicide has been documented as the second leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds, with 36% of those deaths involving alcohol.
Additionally, young adults who start drinking at a young age are three times as likely to attempt suicide as those who don’t drink. Alcohol use over an extended period can lead to feelings of sadness and depression, emotions that are even harder to handle when your brain isn’t fully capable of comprehending how to deal with them.
No one can predict their addictive tendencies, but some factors do contribute to developing an alcohol addiction later on in life:
- Young adults with parents or guardians that drink heavily or have alcohol addictions of their own are 4 times as likely to develop a dependency later on in life
- Adolescents who face external pressure to drink might engage in dangerous drinking habits that they otherwise would not partake in
- Social insecurity has the potential to coerce young adults to drink heavily and attend parties in order to fit in
If you are a teenager or have a child that is facing any of the issues above, it might be time to reevaluate and seek treatment. Addiction does discriminate, and you may very well be placing yourself or a loved one in the line of danger by dismissing these warnings. Actions have consequences, don’t wait to find out what those are. Scottsdale Recovery Center has specialized treatment programs targeted toward curing addiction in youth, call us today and speak with one of our specialists to discuss the best option for you.
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.