9 laws help cut down underage drinking fatalities: Study

Alcohol is the most abused addictive substance in the United States and there is no community or age group that is unaffected by it. Even though the American law bars people below 21 from drinking, alcohol continues to be popular among children and adolescents, often leading to violent behavior, traffic mishaps and other health problems.

Underage drinking can cause various complications. So, it is important to understand the risks associated with the devastating drinking habit. When young people try alcohol, they often don’t realize the damaging effects drinking can have on their lives. Most often, they are over enthusiastic about their first experience with alcohol.

However, people who drink before 15 are more prone to develop alcohol dependence or problem of abuse later in life compared to those who drink after the age of 21. At present, a number of laws prohibit supply of alcohol to youngsters. A recent study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs in March 2016, suggested the importance of nine laws pertaining to drinking.

These laws are meant to control youth alcohol access and its possession. It is estimated that these regulations have been able to save approximately 1,100 lives annually. Moreover, if these laws were adopted in every state, an additional 210 lives are estimated to be saved annually, the report noted.

Half of the states have adopted 13 or fewer laws

The nine laws that are associated with significant reduction in fatalities caused by underage drinking are: possession of alcohol (-7.7 percent), purchase of alcohol (-4.2 percent), use alcohol and lose your license ( 7.9 percent), zero tolerance .02 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for underage drivers (-2.9 percent), age of bartender 21 ( 4.1 percent), state responsible beverage service program (-3.8 percent), fake identification support provisions for retailers (-11.9 percent), dram shop liability (-2.5 percent), and social host civil liability ( 1.7 percent).

Many states have implemented several laws associated with underage drinking, including adoption of a core minimum legal drinking age of 21, which aim to scale down the prevalence of underage alcohol use and alcohol-related traffic deaths among young drivers.

“We were surprised to find that half of the states have adopted 13 or fewer laws, that only five can be found in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and that just one state, Utah, has adopted all 20,” said lead author James Fell, a principal research scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago.

Measures to control underage drinking

Alcohol is the drug of choice among many adolescents and teens and to avoid this parents need to talk to them about the risks of drinking early and the importance of making good decisions. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 35.1 percent of 15-year-olds have reportedly admitted to having consumed at least one drink in their lives, while nearly 8.7 million people aged 12–20 years have been found to drink alcohol one month prior to the survey. To develop effective programs to prevent alcohol use among adolescents, it is necessary to first follow the following measures:

  • Paying close attention to the warning signs that may indicate underage drinking.
  • Working in a coordinated effort to lower underage drinking, especially involving parents, schools, communities, social systems and the youth themselves.
  • Promoting the understanding of how underage drinking may affect human development, taking into account individual characteristics.
  • Improving public health surveillance on underage drinking.
  • Working in groups to ensure that policies at all levels are consistently implemented to address the problem effectively.

Way forward

According to the researchers, there are several factors that can help teens remain safe, with most important ones being minimum legal drinking age, graduated driver licensing systems and parental involvement. These proven steps can help safeguard the lives of teens and adolescents. Underage drinking will continue to be a major cause of fatalities till alcohol is made accessible to those below 21 years.

Any kind of alcohol is harmful as it can turn into an addiction and create havoc. The Alcohol Addiction Helpline strives to help people get rid of alcohol dependence. If you or your loved one is battling addiction, call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-281-3014 or chat online for further information about the major alcohol treatment centers in the U.S.