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Underage Drinking and Illicit Drug Abuse

Those participating in underage drinking may assume it's harmless and typical teenage behavior, but illegal drug and alcohol use endanger not just those involved, but others, too. Far too many injuries, especially in the form of alcohol poisoning or vehicle accidents, happen often when teens participate in underage drinking with their friends.

Kinds of Injuries Tied to Underage Drinking

There are many different injuries that can result for young adults who are affected by underage drinking or illicit drug abuse, whether it is parents engaging in detrimental drug abuse behavior, passengers in a car drinking alcohol and putting everyone inside the vehicle at risk or the teenager themselves engaging in this behavior, the chances of a serious accident and resulting injuries are severe.

How Many Teens Are Involved in Underage Drinking and Drug Abuse?

In a 2011 survey of high school students conducted by the CBC, approximately 8% reported drinking after driving within the previous month.

Another 23% indicated that they use marijuana on a regular basis and 22% admitted to binge drinking on a regular basis. All of these behaviors pose risk for teenagers. The short and long term consequences associated with underage alcohol consumption and drug use are alarming in their magnitude and range, affecting teens, individuals around them and society as a whole.

Although adolescence is typically classified by strong physical health and low disease incidents, overall morbidity and mortality rates increase significantly between middle childhood and early adulthood. These mortality rates can increase as much as 200% according to the Surgeon General's Call to Action.

This dramatic increase in the risk of fatalities is attributable in part to sensation seeking, risk taking and erratic behavior that may often contribute to unintentional injuries, violence, homicide, risky sexual behavior as well as suicide. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol all too often play a role in these situations. Peer pressure among other teens or stress from their daily lives and lack of support from their parents can prompt teenagers to engage in riskier behavior that puts them in jeopardy.

Many teens do not realize the consequences of their actions until it is too late. A drinking and driving accident or a vehicle accident caused by abuse of drugs, however, can be a devastating consequence that follows the teen for many years to come. Approximately 5000 individuals under the age of 21 die as a result of alcohol related injuries involving underage drinking in particular. In fact, out of the 5000 deaths involving motor vehicle crashes, 38% of them involve alcohol. Underage drinking plays a crucial role in risky sexual behavior including unintended, unwanted and unprotected sexual activity. It also increases the risk of sexual and physical assault, is linked to illicit drug use, tobacco use and academic failure.

Physical Complications for Underage Drinking

The physical consequences of drug and alcohol abuse can range from hangovers to death from alcohol poisoning or overdose. In many cases children may engage in this behavior in an effort to hide it from their parents, therefore putting them at greater risk of serious injuries. There are additionally second hand effects that can impact others and put them at risk.

Unruly and loud behavior, unintentional injuries, violence, property destruction and even death as a result of underage alcohol or illicit drug abuse affect innocent parties as well. Many of the people who die in crashes involving a driver who was drinking under the age of 21 are people other than the driver. These victims make up 45% of fatal injuries.

Furthermore, illicit drug use and alcohol abuse as a young teenager is tied to risks for heavy drinking later in life. Continued heavy use of alcohol throughout a young adult's life can lead to an increased risk for acute consequences and various medical conditions such as liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cancers of the larynx, pharynx in oral cavity and hemorrhagic stroke. Early alcohol consumption by some individuals will result in dependence as well. These serious issues can lead to injuries for teens and others.

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