Underage drinking problem is a major public health issue in the United States. Adolescents want to overcome social anxiety, lower their inhibitions in social situations, reduce stress and worries, increase courage, feelings and power, enhance sexual attractiveness and performance, satisfy the thrill seeking desires through alcohol consumption. This issue became one of the most well known cause of numerous legal disputes.
Alcohol consumption by youth in the United States (also known as underage drinking) is a term used for the concept of alcohol use by anyone under the minimum legal drinking age of 21. A lot of states have a minor in possession (MIP) – criminal offense concerning alcohol and drugs found in possession of minors, although some details regarding punishments vary from state-to-state. Some states provide a very strict strategy towards those who violate the MIP law and prosecute its felons; others have a different point of view about juvenile justice, providing probation by entering a court-ordered diversionary program and offering medical care. It is typically a misdemeanor for anyone under 21 to possess alcohol. Besides the fact that this is the minimum legal age to buy alcohol in all states, details tend to vary.
Alcohol drinking laws prohibit a minor to:
- Possess alcohol;
- Attempt to purchase or purchase alcohol;
- Consume alcohol;
- Possess a fake ID;
- Break the Zero Tolerance Law
Zero Tolerance Law applies to a driver under age of 21, and prohibits any amount of BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration). Penalties for violation of liquor law are: fines, citations, short jail sentence, community service, suspension of driver’s license, dependency treatment.
Let’s have a deep insight into the source of Underage Drinking.
Adolescence is a transitional stage from puberty to adulthood, usually accompanied by dramatic physical, psychological and lifestyle development, which can be very stressful for some individuals. The alcohol use is associated with certain developmental transitions (such as puberty and increasing independence). The decision of alcohol consumption begins with various motivations: risk-taking (the thrill seeking impulse provokes the desire of doing something illegal), expectancies (the sensation seeking, the cult of alcohol promoted by social media that initiates a lot of expectations in a young subconscious), social awkwardness (the need to overcome personal shyness and the urge to obtain a better position on social stage), personal characteristics and psychiatric comorbidity (depression and anxiety might be the trigger of alcohol consumption), hereditary factors (children of alcoholic or having several alcoholic family members are more likely to become alcoholics), environmental aspects, etc.
Nowadays, alcohol is the most abused drug among young people in the United States. Annually, it provokes almost 4300 annual deaths among underage youth (including homicides, suicides, car crashes, drownings, burns and falls). More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinking, and young drinkers tend to drink more than adult consumers.
- By age of 15, more than 50 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
- By age of 18, more than 70 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
- In 2014, 10.4 million young people ages 12–20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month.
What are the risks of Underage Drinking?
The risks of underage drinking are uncountable. It affects a youth’s physical, emotional, and neurological health. The belief that nothing bad will happen leads many teens to make inappropriate decisions.
- Death - each year people under 21 years old die from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning and other injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings.
- Serious injuries - more than 190,000 people under 21 visited and emergency room for alcohol related injuries in 2008 alone.
- Impaired judgment - drinking affects a lot of cognitive functions, making youths act risky, have unwanted and unprotected sexual activity.
- Brain development problems - studying how alcohol influences our brain is a quite difficult task because it is difficult to detect the significant impact on long-term thinking and memory skills. Currently, scientists try to research this field, taking into consideration that a young brain is in a development process. Effects may also include hallucinations, psychotic episodes, changes in sleep patterns, changes in the ability to concentrate.
- Other health issues - alcohol evokes liver problems, growth of endocrine effects.
- Increased risk of sexual or physical assault
Underage drinking countermeasures
Underage drinking is a widespread offense that can have serious neurological, physical, and legal consequences. Increasing the minimum age to purchase alcohol to 21 in the United States had its positive influence, along with raising the price of alcohol, enacting the Zero Tolerance Law, Stepping up Enforcement Law and so on. Also, families can contribute to underage drinking by talking to their children, giving them all the care and support needed.
Signs of Underage Drinking
- Impulsive or excitement-seeking behavior;
- Sleep or study time disruptions;
- Unwanted sexual advances;
- Changing group of friends, or general social environment;
- Less interest in activities and/or appearance;
- Slurred speech;
- Coordination problems;
- Concentration problems;
- Memory problems;
- Personal property damage.
Underage drinking is a serious problem within any society. Young individuals experiencing this problem, provoke irreparable damage to their lives and families. There is a the wide range of harmful consequences of alcohol consumption, such as health problems, dropping out of school, personal crises or legal complications. If you are on the harmful way, consider asking for professional help.
In case that you need legal help being charged with Underage Drinking or Minor in Possession, don’t hesitate finding a qualified attorney that will help you go through all the legal issues that you have. Underage drinking penalties might be very serious, so it is better to make a research about the state laws and procedures applied in your state. All you have to do is go to Legal Bistro, create an account and describe your case. Legal Bistro is an online community where many criminal lawyers will compete to handle your case.
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