Selling and distributing alcohol is a part of a trillion-dollar industry that continues to be successful due to its mass marketing, affordability, availability, and alcohol becoming a global commodity. However, with this, alcohol has also become the third leading cause of death globally, and the second leading preventable cause of cancer. Almost ten years ago, in 2010, alcohol cost the United States close to a quarter trillion dollars between loss of workplace productivity, health care expenses for treatment of issues related to excessive drinking, law enforcement/criminal justice expenses, and losses from motor vehicle crashes! The state of Georgia, alone, suffered a $6.93 billion loss due to excessive alcohol use (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018).
In regards to our youth, alcohol is the most widely abused substance among teens, and the alcohol industry targets them for sales (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2017). In 2017, 7.4 million teens reported that they were current alcohol users (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2017). About 50% of the alcohol industry profits come from individuals that are alcohol dependent and youth that engage in underage drinking. The earlier teens begin drinking, the more likely they will become alcohol dependent in adulthood, further contributing to these profits. Aside from the legal consequences, underage drinking can result in several health-related consequences that can be very costly for youth as well. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Liver disease
- Tissues scarring (Cirrhosis)
- Inflammation (Alcoholic Hepatitis)
- Digestive problems
- Inflammation of stomach lining (Gastritis)
- Stomach ulcers
- Weakened immune system
- Bone damage
- Damage bone marrow, which makes blood cells
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure (Hypertension)
- Stroke or Heart Failure
- Increased risk of cancer
- Impaired brain development
- Memory lapses that can worsen to short-term memory loss or early onset of dementia
- Persistent brain damage (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2018)
To prevent any further contribution to the cost of excessive drinking that our youth and society bare, we must prevent such use among youth in the first place. One of the most effective ways to prevent teens from engaging in underage drinking is by talking to them about alcohol use. Parents do influence the decisions their children make, and having multiple short talks often build a trusting relationship with your child, allowing them to feel more comfortable coming to you for advice in regard to drinking. Also, the earlier, the better your chances of influencing their decisions. Another effective method is for adults to not serve teens alcohol, even under “supervision” at social events– “supervision” does not mean SAFE!
To learn how we can all contribute to preventing our youth and our society from continuing to pay the price of excessive alcohol use, check out our resources below!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, July 13). Excessive Drinking is Draining the U.S. Economy. Retrieved September 16, 2019, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/features/costsofdrinking/index.html
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, July 11). Alcohol Use Disorder. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from Mayo Clinic website: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2017, February). Underage Drinking. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/UnderageDrinking/UnderageFact.htm
National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (2017). Slides Based on 2017 NSDUH Annual National Report. PowerPoint. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/slides-2017-nsduh-annual-national-report