Alcohol and Other Drug Use

With alcohol being the most commonly used and abused drug among the youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs, the CDC reported that 11% of all the alcohol consumed in the United States each year is from youth aged 12 to 20 years, and more than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinking.  In 2008, approximately 190,000 emergency room visits were by persons under 21 years of age for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.

Alcohol use among our youth is alarming, with 42% of all high school students reporting they drank some amount of alcohol in the past 30 days of taking a CDC survey and 24% reporting they have participated in binge drinking in the past 30 days of taking the survey.  In the past 30 days of taking a recent CDC survey, 10% of all high school students reported they drove after drinking alcohol, and nearly 30% of all high school students rode with a driver who had been drinking.

In a 2009 study by the CDC, 37% of all 8th graders and 72% of all 12th graders had ever tried alcohol.  In this same report, 15% of all 8th graders and almost half of all 12th graders reported they drank alcohol in the past month of taking the survey.  In Mississippi, 26.4% of all high school students reported they drank alcohol for the first time before age 13 years – other than a few sips (the national average is 21.1%).

Illegal drug use is a growing problem among our youth with nearly 37% of all high school students in the United States reporting use of marijuana in their lifetime, with Mississippi high school students reporting use in 35.1% of all high school students.  About 7% of the youth in the United States 12 years of age or older reported they have used marijuana in the past month of taking the CDC survey.

The consequences of underage drinking and drug use include academic problems, such as higher absenteeism and poor or failing grades.  These youth are more likely to fight, experience physical and sexual assault, and have unwanted, unplanned and unprotected sexual activity.  They are at a higher risk for suicide, homicide and abuse of other drugs.  Youth who start drinking before 15 years of age are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after 21 years of age.

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