Underage Drinking Found Among Middle and High School Students
The 2014 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey was released recently and it spoke volumes on where we should be placing our focus for improving health and education. Approximately 65,000 students from 750 schools completed the survey. The survey has become a valuable source of information that can be used in guiding efforts that ensure that Florida’s youth will receive the tools and knowledge they need to prevent drug use and their related problem behaviors (Executive Office of the Governor, 2014).
Some key points determined from the survey:
- Between 2004 and 2014, there was a decline of nearly 12% in the prevalence of past-30-day alcohol use by students
- High-risk drinking behavior is still common; nearly 1 in 5 high school students reported to blacking out after drinking
Although in total there has been a decline in alcohol use across Florida, this is not always the case. In 2009, a small number of counties in rural areas experienced an increase in underage drinking and binge drinking which may still be the trend now (State Epidemiology Workgroup, 2009). From the 2014 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, the three counties with the most prevalent alcohol use among middle school students were Dixie, Glades and Liberty. In Hillsborough County, the prevalence of alcohol use among students is lower than other areas in the state. However, it is still the most abused substance for youth in the county (HCADA, 2014).
Ways to Stop the Trend
It is critical to make children, parents and the community aware of the dangers involved with underage drinking. After all, these kids will be on the roads before you know it. By the time they’re 15, many will be getting their learner’s permits and developing their driving habits. By the time they are 16, some may be out on the roads alone and without supervision. These drivers will experience increased independence and responsibility, but they lack experience. Teens that are comfortable using drugs and alcohol become even more risky on the roads!
Myth #1: Allowing a child to take small sips of alcohol will help them become responsible drinkers.
According to a recent study from 2015, when you allow a child to take a little sip of beer, wine or other type of alcoholic drink by the sixth grade, they are nearly five times more likely to have had a full drink while in high school. They also become four times more likely to binge drink or get drunk!
Myth #2: Drinking is just a phase, and kids will grow out of it.
Underage drinking is often something that kids don’t grow out of. In many cases, people that start drinking early in life will develop an alcohol dependence later in life. In fact, 95% of the 14 million people that have an alcohol dependency problem started drinking before they reached the legal age (MADD, n.d).
Myth #3: If I can go to war, I should be old enough to drink.
The age requirement is probably the argument that gets the most heat. But there is a real reason for it! Since the human brain doesn’t stop developing until a person is in their mid-20’s, it makes sense to wait. Drinking while the brain is still developing can lead to long-lasting problems with cognitive abilities and is also related to a variety of health problems!
“2014 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey“. Executive Office of the Governor. 2014.
“Profile of Alcohol and Drug Indicators“. Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA). 2014.
“The Prospective Association Between Sipping Alcohol by the Sixth Grade and Later Substance Use“. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2015.