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Underage Alcohol Abuse Rises

by Nicole Leonard | Boston University

F Posted in: College P Posted on: February 22, 2012
Screen shot 2012-02-21 at 11.44.32 PM Image courtesy of Flickr, William Christiansen

Underage drinking has become increasingly popular among high school and college students, and so have the costs of care for underage drinkers who go too far.

Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) show that an increase in underage drinking has been seen in the last few years among young people in their late teens to early twenties.

What a Mayo Clinic study published on Feb. 15 found interesting were the costs stemming from incidents involving alcohol abuse. Based on the Nationwide Inpatient Sample database, the study found that the hospitalization costs from annual incidences of alcohol use disorder (AUD) between the ages of 15 and 20 was estimated at $755 million in 2008.

The CDC names alcohol as the “most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States.”

The results from the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey given to high school students showed that during the past 30 days:

  • 42% drank some amount of alcohol
  • 24% binge drank
  • 10% drove after drinking alcohol
  • 28% rode with a driver that had been drinking alcohol

The numbers and data not only reflect the high school population of mostly minors but also show statistics on students in colleges or universities.

The Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality released an article on Feb. 7 that focused more specifically on underage adult cases. Polled data from the SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) gave insight into information collected on approximately 374,000 cases of substance abuse treatments in 2009 in people aged 18 to 24. According to TEDS, about 12,00 of those admitted for treatment were college or postsecondary school students.

In the case of alcohol abuse, the data showed that people admitted between the ages mentioned above were more likely to be college students than non-students. College students accounted for 46.6 percent of alcohol abuse cases for people aged 18 to 24 while non-students accounted for 30.6 percent.

As studies continue to release statistics and data about underage drinking, researchers still look for the reasons why high school and college students continue to drink heavily although underage.

Amanda Luccarelli, a sophomore at Marist College, said college students especially drink to relive stress that comes from keeping up good grades and attaining degrees that would help get secure jobs in a now difficult job market.

“That factor placed on all of the stresses of grades and the reality of leaving college with a degree and a debt they had never fully calculated causes many college students to over drink and get themselves in trouble,” Luccarelli said.

Shannon Casey, a sophomore at Ohio State University, said the increase in underage drinking in the current generation of college students is unsettling.

“I think it says that we are a little less responsible than previous generations,” Casey said.

Casey said that while she recognizes the faults in her colleagues and fellow students, some parents or legal drinkers can be responsible for providing alcohol to minors.

“It is against the law to obtain alcohol,” she said. “The underage drinker cannot be solely blamed for this since someone older provided help.”

Boston University sophomore James Curtis said that students are irresponsible in their drinking habits and use it to escape the stresses of everyday life.

“This is also the first time that students have real freedom from their parents and they feel like they can do whatever they like,” Curtis said.

Curtis also said that, while it is wrong for parents to become enablers of underage drinking, “Almost all kids will drink when they are underage, and if parents don’t allow that or pretend it isn’t happening, it doesn’t help the situation.”

Nicole Leonard Nicole Leonard Nicole is a sophomore at Boston University, where she is studying journalism and psychology.

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