In the United States, consuming alcohol under the age of 21 is considered underage drinking and is strictly against the law. Drinking underage comes with legal consequences including mandatory community service, suspended license, fines and potential time in jail. Not only do individuals put themselves in danger, but they also put others in jeopardy if they get behind the wheel of a car or become violent.
Many adolescents consume most of their alcohol by binge drinking. This means they consume an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time. Binge drinking for males involves having five or more drinks in a two-hour period, and four or more drinks for females in the same timeframe. It is extremely risky behavior that can lead to a host of problems, including alcohol poisoning. Frequent excessive drinking will begin to take a toll on a person's personal life, relationships, school work and possibly professional goals down the road.
Signs of Underage Drinking
- Development of Behavioral or Academic Problems
- Loss of Interest in Hobbies and Activities
- Inability to Concentrate or Experiencing Memory Problems
- Appears to be Drunk or Under the Influence
- Switching Friends and Being Secretive About Hanging Out
The Consequences of Underage Drinking
Underage drinking can contribute to many short- and long-term side effects. Unfortunately, adolescents often do not think about the consequences associated with their drinking patterns until it's too late. Some of these effects can even stay dormant for years before surfacing.
Adolescent drinkers are likely to experience one or more of the following negative consequences:
- Problems in school
- Social issues
- Health concerns
- Physical or sexual assault
- Unwanted or unplanned pregnancy
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- High risk of suicide attempts
- Legal trouble
- Abuse of other substances
Additional effects of alcohol use can develop as an adolescent gets older. For example, long-term alcohol consumption can lead to cardiovascular diseases, liver disease, cancer, nerve damage and respiratory infections. Some of these conditions are often irreversible and can worsen a person's health over time.
The only way to prevent the health risks associated with alcohol is to quit drinking entirely. Every day, month and year that goes by alcohol-free reduces the chance of dangerous complications.