Underage Drinking

Dangers of drinking while you are young

leave home, many for the first time. While these may be exciting years, widespread alcohol use means they may be risky years as well. The highest prevalence of problem drinking occurs among young adults aged 18 to 25, nearly 42% of whom admit to binge drinking at least once a month (drinking five or more drinks in rapid succession for men, four or more for women).

Many of us typically think of college as the setting where older teens and younger 20-something drink to excess. However, several studies show that heavy drinking is widespread among all young adults regardless of whether or not they attend college. College students tend to drink less often than non students, but when they do imbibe—at parties, for example—they tend to drink more.

The prevalent use of alcohol among teens and young adults is alarming for a number of reasons:

  • Alcohol is a major factor in fatal automobile crashes. About one-third of drivers ages 21 to 24 who died in a car crash in 2009 had a blood alcohol level that was over the legal limit.
  • Drinking may have lasting health effects. Some researchers believe that heavy drinking at this age, when the brain is still developing, may cause lasting impairments in brain functions such as memory, coordination, and motor skills—at least among susceptible individuals.
  • Drinking can lead to sexual assaults and rape. Each year, approximately 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

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