Alcohol abuse is a serious problem that poses a very real threat to minors each year. Annually, 4,300 minors die from alcohol related causes, and countless others suffer serious injury or other major problems as a result of their excessive drinking.
Teens who drink are at a risk for a long list of physical and mental health problems, and drinking at a young age can cause a lifetime of professional and emotional problems which may include anxiety, depression, and a tendency toward violent behavior. Teenagers who drink are very unlikely to drink in moderation, as 2 out of 3 teens who drink alcohol do so to get drunk.
Parents and educators of teens are constantly striving to find ways that underage drinking can be curbed, and in many communities, there are very strict laws around possession of alcohol by minors. Do stringent laws really impact drinking in minors? What can be done to keep teens safe from the dangers of underage drinking?
Raising Drinking Age Has Reduced Drunk Driving
In the past there have been a number of alcohol laws enacted that did in fact effectively reduce some of the behavior associated with underaged drinking. When the legal drinking age was raised to 21, for example, instances of motor vehicle accidents caused by suspected drunk driving fell by around 16%.
States With Strict Drinking Laws See Results
It seems that states with strict drinking laws do in fact experience lower numbers of alcohol-related crimes and medical emergencies. In states like Kansas, which has the most notably stringent drinking laws, the number of college students who suffer health consequences related to binge drinking are notably lower.
States with the strictest laws against drinking and driving seem to have lower rates of collisions due to drinking and driving.
Alcoholism Can Have a Number of Root Causes
While stricter laws against drinking may certainly lower the number of young people who drink, it seems that the answer to eradicating minor abuse of alcohol is more complicated than simply enacting laws designed to lower alcohol consumption. Alcoholism is a complicated disease, and preventing teens from becoming addicted to alcohol requires that parents play an active role in their child's life.
Children who have a good relationship with their parents are much more likely to have higher self esteem, which is tied to a lower likelihood of suffering from alcohol addiction. Teens who have been adequately educated on the dangers of alcohol abuse are also more likely to avoid peer pressure and to abstain from drinking in the first place.
Saving Lives is a Community Effort
Most law enforcement agencies in areas with more stringent alcohol laws report that the community witnesses lower instances of alcoholism and health problems caused by overdose of alcohol. Many of these same law enforcement agencies also stress the importance of a community where teens have ample access to education about the dangers of drinking and drunk driving, and that from a young age, children are given the tools they need to avoid the temptation to use.
In communities where prevention is made a priority, among parents, teachers, shop keepers, and law enforcement agencies, teens have a chance to make the most of their developing years without suffering from major damage to their decision making skills and other serious neurological problems that generally come along with the abuse of alcohol. Teens who wait until adulthood to drink are much more likely to consume alcohol responsibly and moderately than teens who are exposed to alcohol at a very young age.
Legislation to promote alcohol abstinence seems to be prudent indeed.