Underage drinking and binge drinking rates are taking a plunge in the U.S. according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The report issued by the SAMHSA is looking at rates from the period between 2002 and 2013. Underage drinking measured in the age group from 12 to 20 years decreased by 6.1 percent from a high 28.8 percent to 22.7 percent in the last recorded year.
Binge drinking also took a plunge of 5.1 percent, with 19.3 percent of underage drinkers reporting an intake of five or above drinks in one sitting in 2002 to only 14.2 percent reporting the same consumption rate in 2013.
It seems the newer generations have grown increasingly responsible. Underage drinking is not the only type of substance abuse that decreased significantly in the reported period. Cigarette smoking, drug abuse, marijuana smoking are also in a declining trend.
Perhaps awe causing for some who tend to portray young generations as problematic, this new report is warmly welcomed to prove the contrary. Admittedly, it also raises questions as to the factors that influence this decline in all substance abuse forms, as well as perilous behavior. Sexual activity is not a priority for teens anymore, nor do they get in physical fights as much as they used to.
Doctor John Santelli of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine commented on the report:
“There is a lot more media hype around the kids who are raising hell. There are a lot of kids who are pretty responsible.”
How did this come to happen? One hypothesis is that due to unlimited access to information and exposure to popular shows that are undertaking these problematic themes, teens tend to be more realistic about the dangers they could be exposing themselves to.
Jennifer Powell Lunder, child psychologist explains the declining trend in underage drinking or binge drinking:
“With the Internet and information out there, I think that kids can really see anything they want to see. Back in the day, you’d go out drinking or doing whatever you were doing and part of the excitement was the shock value. But that doesn’t even exist anymore.”
Alongside this hypothesis, there is that of the most tried generation that prepares today’s children and teenagers for a more rigid approach to life. ‘Necessary pragmatism’ as Lola Okolosie, English teacher at a secondary school named it, is understood by today’s children and teenagers as the need to perform highly in order to prepare for the competitive future.
This might bring about other issues, yet it is working in taking the young generation’s mind off substance abuse, prevailing over underage drinking and binge drinking.
Other facts that might be factored in the declining percentage of underage drinkers and binge drinkers are awareness programs and increased coverage of cases showing the effects of drunk driving, alcohol poisoning or sexual abuse due to drunkenness.
At the same time, simple measures such as the establishment of high prices and taxes for alcohol, combined with a rigorous enforcement of legal U.S. drinking age had a crucial impact on how accessible alcohol is for the age group in the SAMHSA study.
While all these factors combined led to a drop in underage drinking and binge drinking, the director of SAMHSA, Frances M. Harding drew attention that 8.7 million underage drinkers, as well as 5.4 million underage binge drinkers are still at risk.
At the same time, alcohol tops the list of substance abuse for underage users, followed by tobacco and illegal drugs.
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