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Underage Drinking

The laws of countries vary widely. In one place a girl may be married at age twelve depending on her religion whereas this would be illegal in other countries. Similarly, the laws that govern the consumption of alcohol are not by any means universal. In this essay the phenomenon of underage drinking will be discussed in therms of its precursor, prohibition, the reality of alcohol related deaths and other threats that young people face.

At one point in American history, alcohol consumption was illegal for everyone and not just people under the age of 21. This resulted in a thriving subculture in which mafiosos controlled the flow of alcohol into major city centers. It was harder to stop people in the country from brewing and consuming their own alcohol. This lack of access to legal alcohol created a mystique around it that survives to this day. Prohibition not only left America with a higher drinking age than most industrial nations, it also created a connection with alcohol and freedom that makes many young people feel like they have to drink to be ‘cool’.

Teenagers are known to have lower impulse control than adults. There are many structures in their brains that will not be working at full capacity until adulthood. This is not to say that they are stupid, merely that the connection between an action and its consequence may not be as easy for them to form. This is important in terms of alcohol because it can lead to death if it is overindulged in. This can come directly through the destruction of the liver and other organs or indirectly through the lack of inhibitions that can lead a teen to engage in dangerous behavior. This is also the cause of many car accidents.

While underage drinking is a very real problem, it should not eclipse the other threats to young people. Sometimes the abuse of alcohol is a symptom of a larger problem rather than the problem itself. Many victims of abuse find themselves drawn to alcohol as a way to ‘self medicate’ especially when they have not ever sought actual therapy to deal with the issue. To actually curb alcohol abuse in teenagers, it is necessary to find out what makes them do it whether it be low self esteem a desire to drown out pain or lack of suitable activities.

With new research the reasons for this phenomena are likely to become better understood. Until then we can use what we already know.

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