by Samantha Forcht & Matthew Meusel
It’s 11 p.m. on a Saturday night and a female sophomore at WHS stumbles through her phone to try and figure out how on earth she’s going to get herself home before the cops come to bust yet another party she’s attended that weekend. Barely able to stand up, this sophomore manages to find her way into a friend’s car. ¨Half of the time I don’t remember drinking so much, but the next thing I know I can’t even remember where I am,” she said.
Alcohol abuse is bound to happen throughout one’s high school career. In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, 78 percent of teens have reported drinking underage and teens are more likely to drink than adults. The problem is clear—the sheer amount of underage drinking digs up many societal concerns.
For the purpose of confidentiality, no students’ names will be used in this story.
Teens get so caught up in the fun of drinking that, in most cases, they don’t understand the serious dangers it can cause. A female sophomore at WHS said, “I’ve never gone to the hospital due to over-drinking, but one of my friends had to get her stomach pumped because she could not keep track of how much she was drinking.” Most teens don’t understand the risk they are putting themselves in when they drink.
Alcohol abuse also can lead to things far worse than hospital trips. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 4,358 people under age 21 each year. Also, each year about 188,000 people under age 21 visit an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries. After hearing these statistics, a female junior at WHS said, “I had no idea how much can happen from drinking. I’ve never thought about it as putting myself at risk for dying.”
Whether it’s drinking once a semester or every weekend, teens are still putting themselves at risk. A female senior at WHS said, “I drink only hard alcohol, and I drink it every weekend. I guess that’s what happens when you’re a second-semester senior.”
WHS teens may be feeling that since they will be leaving in just a matter of months, their decisions may not have consequences. This attitude is starting to seep into the younger students at WHS. A female junior at WHS said, “I drink pretty much every weekend, but I’m able to balance myself so that I don’t end up in the ER.”
Alcohol abuse may stem from parents letting their children drink, causing the teens to get carried away with it. According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, parents should be aware that supplying alcohol to minors actually increases, rather than decreases, the risk for continued drinking in the teenage years and for subsequent problem drinking later in life. A male junior at WHS said, “My mom sometimes gives me and my friends alcohol because she says she would rather us be drinking under her roof than somewhere else, but little does she know that I still go to parties and drink out of her watch.”
Since hard liquor has a higher percentage of alcohol than beer does, the risks are higher when consuming it. A female senior at WHS said, ¨My senior year I started drinking only hard liquor, because I feel that I get more drunk from it and the side effects come faster.” According to the National Institutes of Heath, 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits contains 40 percent alcohol but 12 ounces of beer only contains 5 percent alcohol.
Health experts also believe that more can be done to address this problem. “I think the drinking age should be 18 and that teens shouldn’t drink at such a young age because it messes with their brain development since it’s still developing,” said a medical nurse with more than 25 years’ experience. “By this I mean when they aren’t legally allowed to drink. Teens tend to drink irresponsibly, for example binge-drinking.”
As mentioned during Monday’s assembly presentation by Dr. Matt Bellace, there are safer ways to feel a “natural high” through actions such as mindfulness meditation, positive communication and laughter.
Some parents are very concerned about underage drinking and are sometimes hesitant when their children leave the house on Saturday night. “I think that underage drinking has become a real problem in the last few years and the amount of peer pressure leads to so many kids drinking,” said a WHS parent.
One option is to simply not go to these parties where alcohol is involved, but there is a problem with that possible option—even the smallest gatherings nowadays involve alcohol. One male junior at WHS feels the immense peer pressure. “Who am I going to hang out with if I don’t want to drink?” he asked. “Everything revolves around drinking. Every decision, every plan made.”
Some students drink simply due to the fact that they feel as though they can handle it responsibly. “I drink when I want to and I’m able to control myself,” said a male junior at WHS. “I don’t drink every weekend like a lot of people do because I know if I do it will affect the other things in my life.”
So whose job is it to take a stand and put an end to this excessive amount of drinking? Do parents need to set stricter boundaries? Do kids need to be shown the statistics and have fear instilled in them? To many, the numbers show that something needs to be done. “There is a problem and it can be solved,” said a male junior at WHS. “But we don’t choose to.”