FAccording to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "Underage drinking is when anyone under the minimum legal drinking age of 21 drinks alcohol. Underage drinking is a risk that attracts many developing adolescents and teens. When young people try alcohol, they often don’t realize the damaging effects drinking can have on their own lives, their families, and their communities. Aside from being illegal, underage drinking is a widespread public health problem that poses many risks. Here’s why:
Death – 4,358 people under age 21 die each year from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning.
Serious injuries – More than 190,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries in 2008 alone.
Impaired judgment – Drinking can cause kids to make poor decisions, which can then result in risky behavior like drinking and driving, sexual activity, or violence.
Increased risk for physical and sexual assault – Youth who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault.
Brain development problems – Research shows that brain development continues well into a person’s twenties. Alcohol can affect this development, and contribute to a range of problems.
Locally Beginning in 2008, the Hernando Community Coalition’s main focus was underage alcohol use. Survey results from that year showed that 16% of middle school students and 42.3% of high school students reported using alcohol in the past 30-days, (2008, Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey). In 2007, underage drinking adverse effects cost Hernando County 19.8 million dollars, (Economic Affects of Underage Drinking in Florida, 2009).
From 2008 to 2014, the rates of alcohol use among middle and high school students has been steadily declining. In Hernando County high school students rates have gone from 42.3% to 29.3%, an overall decrease of 31%, meaning 31% less of kids are reporting recent drinking today than 6 years ago. Among Hernando County middle school students, rates have gone from 16% to 8%, an overall decrease of 50%, meaning half as many kids are reporting recent drinking today than 6 years ago. This is a huge success in the county. “Moving the Needle” of drug and alcohol use rates is no easy task, especially when up against the glamour of the alcohol industry.
Despite the success, there is still a long way to go in Hernando to prevent youth alcohol use. Alcohol remains the most commonly used drug among Hernando County teens.
Percentage of Hernando County Middle and High School Students Past 30 Day Alcohol Use, 2008-2014