State of the Drink – Use of alcohol in Texas

The Lone Star State likes to do things big. Whether it’s the food or even square acreage of the state itself, Texas has plenty of big things to brag about. One thing difficult to feel pride for is excessive drinking in the underage and other populations. The psychological, physical and financial costs are difficult for many families and communities to bear.

According to the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center (UDETC), in 2013, underage drinking cost Texas over five billion dollars. Most of that was due to pain and suffering but medical and lost labor costs are nothing to spit at. The UDETC breaks this down to 2,075 dollars per youth in Texas. This is money taken away from many possible positive causes.

Youth violence and traffic accidents were the most expensive incidents caused by the alcohol consumption in 2013.

Unfortunately, the drinking problem starts young and hard in teens of Texas. For example, 21 percent of Texan teens in high school reported binge drinking in the last month as of the survey’s completion. This is not surprising, considering 1.22 billion dollars was made off underage drinking in Texas during 2012. According to data collected by 24/7 Wall Street by the CDC and U.S. Department of Transportation, Texas ranks tenth when it comes to percentage of alcohol consumed by underage consumers. By comparison, Ohio is number nine and Arizona is first.

Of course, it’s not just the underage users dealing with alcohol abuse and addiction. The Texas Department of State Health Services found alcohol to be the most common reason for admission to rehabilitative programs in the state. The average age of trying alcohol for the first time among these adults was 16 years old.

Problems involved with drinking are continuing to grow in some parts of Texas, including Austin, the state’s fourth most populous city and its capital.

In an interview with Austin’s KVUE News, Officer Bob Mitchell of the driving while intoxicated (DWI) task force in Austin says the city is infamous for its drinking problem. So much so, people go there to drink quite often. City records have indicated DWI arrests in Austin increased 24 percent over the past three years, from 4,900 to more than 6,000 in 2013. The cost was fatal for 75 people and injurious for another 1,922 individuals.

The emotional and physical impact on people such as Stacy Heizer grabs attention. Ten years ago she was hit by an intoxicated driver, putting her in a coma for three months and causing permanent disability.

“I’m gonna live in pain for the rest of my life,” said Heizer. “People think, ‘that would never happen to me.’ I thought that, and bam! It did.”

More stories such as Heizer’s seem doomed to pile up in the capital, as the Texas comptroller finds “businesses [in Austin] rang up more than a half a billion dollars in alcohol sales last year, a 50 percent increase since 2008.”

Austin officials blame the student population of the University of Texas and various festivals in the city limits for the excessive drinking and the consequences it brings along.

Drinking while driving or using any other heavy machinery is a big mistake. Even if the driver is lucky enough not to cause injury or death of anyone involved, the financial and legal impacts of earning a DWI or driving under the influence (DUI) citation can be great.

According to the DMV, “just” a DWI kicks in at a blood alcohol content percentage of 0.08 percent for adults 21 years or older. For minors, any amount of alcohol found in the system at the time will result in a DWI. Penalties include a few thousand dollars of fines, jail time for up to 180 days, a license suspension, sentencing to an education program and other time-consuming and expensive penalties.

Drinking and driving can be a symptom of alcohol addiction. In that case, the Texas Alcohol Addiction Helpline is the perfect resource for finding treatment of this difficult and potentially fatal condition. To find help right away, please call 855-982-2401 at any time.

Getting Schooled – How alcohol hurts education

School can be an exciting and interesting time for many students. Drinking alcohol can provide a fun outlet during parties and kickbacks. That said, mixing the two activities spells disaster for those getting schooled by both demanding curriculums and busy social schedules. Learning how alcohol impacts a young person’s mental and physical health is critical for using this substance in moderation while still excelling in academics.

Dr. Ginny Schwartz, former coordinator of academic support at St. Lawrence University, cautions college students about drinking excessively at night and then heading to class the day.

“Heavy drinking by students can lead to positive blood alcohol levels the next day, affecting whether or not they even get up for class and, if they do, the quality of how information is processed and ultimately stored,” Dr. Schwartz notes on the university’s academic support webpage.

Hangovers can lead to irritability and anxiety as well, according to Dr. Schwartz.

High school students are also affected by alcohol consumption. A study by Ana Balsa, a research professor from the Center for Applied Research on Poverty, Family and Education in Uruguay, found a noticeable impact on the GPA of high school males compared to their chronically sober classmates. Females, while they did not have the same GPA discrepancy, still face difficulties in academic settings. Balsa and her cohorts found the self-reporting of these grades led to bias, as the females inflated their grades in reporting while the males deflated their own.

They used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and GPAs taken from official school records and self-reporting to find their results.

Balsa is far from the only researcher to take a notice of this subject.  The Center for Disease Control has broken down the grades of students who have or had used alcohol to various degrees. Those with D’s or F’s comprised the demographic most likely to have ever drank, currently drink or even binge drink. The most striking discrepancy presented between those who drank for the first time before the age of 13 and those who have not. D’s and F’s occurred for 41 percent of those young drinking cases, while only 14 percent of high achieving students did the same.

Taking those drinking habits into the college scene and beyond has led to violent and deadly consequences. The Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) has found drug and alcohol abuse to be the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24. Almost just as alarming is 95 percent of all violence on college campuses relates to alcohol in some way.

The FIT staff theorize drinking in college is a byproduct of peer pressure, escapism and desires to feel more socially open with others. While alcohol can be great in small doses as a “social lubricant,” some drinkers can struggle to stop when appropriate or use the alcohol as crutch instead of developing social skills in a healthy, lasting way.

These goals likely shouldn’t obscure the ultimate goal of college: education and preparing for the rest of a life in love and learning. If drinking every day, feeling guilty and intense defensiveness when confronted with the alcohol use sound like familiar parts of life, it is likely the goals of education, social life and other pursuits are falling to the wayside. At this point, it is time to seek help for this potentially deadly problem.

Having difficulty balancing alcohol with other parts of life is one of the signs of alcohol addiction. Dealing with this monstrous disease can be difficult to do alone. This is why the Texas Alcohol Addiction Helpline is a great resource for people striving to enter recovery. Call us at 855-982-2401 today to find an addiction treatment specialist ready to help.