Teen drinking - when fun turns deadly for young people

By Sarah King
SNN Opinion Co-editor
Amalgamated Academy
Bay Roberts, Newfoundland

Alcohol is the most frequently used drug among young people between the ages of 15 and 19. A study shows that two-thirds of eighth graders and nearly ninety per cent of 12th graders report that they have tried alcohol. That's an increase of 23 per cent in just four years!

A 1996 Canadian survey showed that 81 per cent of young adults (ages 15-24) had one alcoholic beverage in the past 12 months. I conducted my own survey of 110 ninth grade students to see how teens in a rural Newfoundland community measured up to the rest of Canada. I found that 73 per cent of them had a drink in the past 12 months.


When asked why they drank, the most common answer was that drinking was "something to do". The other 27 per cent abstain from alcohol. They decided not to drink because as 63 per cent of them said, they think it's stupid.

Each year, 1.1 billion cans of beer are consumed by students aged 15-19 years old. That's not counting the hard liquor and other alcoholic beverages that teens drink. Beer was the most common alcoholic beverage among teens -- 81 per cent of the drinkers had tried it. Beer was followed by wine with 63 per cent, hard liquor with 53 per cent and wine coolers with 35 per cent.

Young people drink to fit in. Or to boost their self-esteem. Many students who drink say that when they are drunk they are more appealing to the opposite sex and that they find it easier to get a date when they are under the influence. For many teens, drinking is just a way of unwinding and letting themselves go.

They really do let themselves go. They let go of their values and beliefs. Many instances of date rape occur after one or both parties involved have been drinking. After five or six beers or drinks, many teens can't remember what happened before that. Their dates take advantage of them, pushing them to go further than they want to. Ninety per cent of all rapes reported on college campuses across the United States involve alcohol.

In many instances, students with poor grades tend to use more alcohol. In fact, students averaging a C average or lower tend to use three times as much alcohol as those who average B's or A's. Alcohol is implicated in more than 40 per cent of all academic problems and 28 per cent of all dropouts.

Alcohol use can be deadly. About 8,100 young people are killed per year in alcohol-related accidents. Eight young people die per day as a result of a drunk-driving accident. Between 50 and 65 per cent of all teen suicides occur after the young person was drinking.

So you see, a beer bash doesn't always end up with a good time. The next time you try to push someone to drink or someone tries to push you to drink, please remember this. One drink can set the habit for life. Why throw it all away?