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Study: 41 percent of 18-20 year olds in Alabama are ‘binge drinkers’


PRATTVILLE, Ala. – The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board kicked off a new statewide educational and public awareness initiative focusing on underage and binge drinking this week with an anti-drinking program at Prattville High School. The initiative, “Under Age, Under Arrest,” highlights the dangers of underage drinking and binge drinking and the social and legal costs of irresponsible drinking.

Underage drinking and binge drinking continue to be troubling problems for middle- and high-school students, as well as college students. These forms of illegal and irresponsible drinking often intersect, as young drinkers are more likely than older drinkers to binge drink.

According to national student surveys:

  • More than 26 percent of people age 12-20 reported consuming alcohol in the past month.
  • By age 15, half of teens have had at least one drink.
  • By age 18, more than 70 percent of teens have had at least one drink.
  • Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to drive impaired.
  • About 90 percent of alcohol consumed by those under the age of 21 (in other words, illegally) is in the form of binge drinks.
  • In Alabama, 41 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds have participated in binge drinking.
  • Among college students, 60.8 percent nationwide are drinkers, and 39 percent are binge drinkers.

Nationwide, about 5,000 people under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning and other injuries. In 2008, more than 190,000 people under the age of 21 went to an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries.

Studies show that young people who begin drinking in their teen years are much more likely to become problem drinkers and alcohol dependent than those who start drinking later.

“Underage drinking and binge drinking remain big problems in Alabama and the nation, taking or ruining many lives every year,” said ABC Board Administrator Mac Gipson. “The ABC Board wants students and parents to understand both the legal and social costs of such irresponsible drinking.”

Binge drinking defined: “drinking alcoholic beverages with the primary intention of becoming intoxicated by heavy consumption over a short period of time… A binge on alcohol can occur over hours, last up to several days, or even weeks. Due to the long-term effects of alcohol misuse, binge drinking is considered to be a major public health issue.”

Among those at this week’s event in support of the “Under Age, Under Arrest” initiative were representatives of the state departments of Education, Public Health and Mental Health, as well as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Students Against Destructive Decisions, the Alabama Citizens Action Program, Auburn University-Montgomery and the Prattville Police Department.

About 1,000 Prattville High students heard presentations from Gipson, the Prattville police, MADD and ALCAP warning them of the dangers of alcohol and the legal consequences of underage drinking.

Kaila Toone drew tears from students as she described a 2011 car accident that killed her 25-year-old nephew. His car was hit head-on by a car driven by an underage drunk driver.

“We’ll take this around the state,” Gipson said. “As the state (ABC) agency, we see it as our responsibility to do what we can to police and discourage this form of irresponsible drinking.”

It is against the law for people under the age of 21 to consume or possess alcoholic beverages. It is also illegal for adults to provide alcohol to those under that legal drinking age. Penalties include fines, possible jail time and, for minors, the loss of their driver licenses.

According to a press release put out by the ABC board, their goal is to make the “Under Age, Under Arrest” slogan as synonymous with underage drinking as the “Click it or Ticket” campaign is with wearing seatbelts.

Schools will be a major focus of the campaign. The ABC Board is partnering with anti-drinking organizations such as MADD, SADD and ALCAP’s American Character Builders to help schools get the message to students and parents alike about the dangers of and penalties for underage drinking. The ABC Board will work with college officials to help inform their students of the consequences of drinking and enforce the state’s alcohol laws.

In addition, the ABC Board will partner with other groups, organizations and institutions throughout the state. These include religious organizations, health agencies, substance-abuse treatment providers, law enforcement, children’s groups, colleges and businesses.

For more information about “Under Age, Under Arrest,” go online to www.underage-underarrest.com.

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamYHN

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