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.