Alcohol and Youth Toolkit (page 2)
Youth who use alcohol are at a much greater risk for problems related to behavior, juvenile delinquency, school performance, unintentional injury, and future substance dependence (alcoholism).
The Case for Talking about Alcohol
Every day students are bombarded with messages about alcohol. The information comes from many different sources: school, parents, friends, television, music, and magazines. Sometimes there is so much information, it’s hard for students to figure out what is true and what is not. As students face the decision of whether to drink or not, knowing all the facts can steer them in the right direction. Choosing not to drink may be a difficult decision, but it is the safest and healthiest decision to make. Underage drinkers risk not only their own health and well-being, they can also hurt their family, friends, and their future.
What Can Alcohol Use Lead to?
- Violence—Alcohol clouds judgement and reasonable thinking, sometimes leading to violence. A significant proportion of violent crimes among students, including rape, robbery and assault, have been shown to involve alcohol. A survey of college administrators indicates that more than half of campus incidents, ranging from violent behavior to property damage, were directly related to alcohol use.
- Other injuries—Because alcohol impairs the coordination and judgement necessary for everyday activities, it is involved in a high percentage of falls, drownings, burns, other injuries, and accidental deaths.
- Emotional Problems—Alcohol makes emotions stronger. Negative feelings, including stress, loneliness, and hopelessness often become worse when people drink alcohol. Emotionally troubled youth who drink heavily are at a higher risk for attempted suicide.
- Stress—Drinking alcohol to deal with pressures from parents, teachers, friends, coaches, brothers, and sisters only increases the stress.
- Overdose—Consuming too much alcohol over a short period of time can cause death from alcohol poisoning.
- Health Issues—Alcohol clouds judgement which can lead to risky sexual behavior, sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy, or HIV/AIDS.
Some Facts about Alcohol and Driving
- According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, traffic crashes are the number one killer of Iowa’s children and young adults, and many of these crashes are caused by alcohol impairment. From 2001 to 2004:
- 439 Iowans died in crashes because someone was drinking, drunk, or otherwise impaired and about 36% of the deaths were youth between the ages of 15 and 24
- Nearly 6,200 Iowans were injured in alcohol related crashes and more than 37% of them were between the ages of 15 and 24
Alcohol and Misperceptions
Not all students use alcohol. Unfortunately, many students misperceive the habits of their peers and then model their own behavior based on those misperceptions. Many students assume that their friends are drinking more often, and consuming more alcohol, than they actually are. This is largely because heavy drinkers are typically the ones that get noticed most at parties and talked about later.
Alcohol can create pervasive and devastating problems for youth, misperceptions can exceed the prevalence and severity of actual use. These misperceptions fuel the problem behavior—students end up believing their distorted perceptions of their peers and adapt their own behavior beyond what they would otherwise do. As a result, the perception of heavier alcohol consumption becomes a partially self-fulfilling prophecy—problem use actually does become more widespread as some students drink at higher levels because they incorrectly perceive that such behavior conforms to that of their peers.It is also estimated that underage drinkers in Iowa consume over 26% of all alcohol consumed in the state, totaling $245 million in sales. At the same time, the problems and costs associated with Iowa underage drinking total about $650 million.
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