Spring 2021 has sprung, and graduation season is upon us! It is also the time when some parents host graduation/underage drinking parties to celebrate their teenagers’ academic achievements. Underage drinking and substance use are prevalent across the country, including in Jefferson County. The Alliance for Better Communities wants to make parents aware of the potentially negative impact of underage drinking on their teens and of the legal consequences awaiting adults who host.
Underage drinking is not and should not be OK. According to the Jefferson County 2018 Prevention Needs Assessment Survey, many young people gain access to alcohol through family members or find it at their homes. Many of the surveyed students also report binge drinking, which means consuming four or five alcoholic beverages during one occasion within a two-hour time frame. In Jefferson County, 9.7% of 9th graders, 13.5% of 10th graders, 14.8% of 11th graders, and 20.4% of 12th graders reported binge drinking.
People who start drinking before the age of 15 are at a higher risk for developing alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Additionally, Jefferson County youth report that adults are the dominant source of alcohol for underage drinkers. Also, as parents, we need to know that the brain does not fully develop until the mid-20s. Alcohol can alter this development and may cause cognitive or learning problems and/or increase vulnerability to alcohol-use disorder, especially when people start drinking at a young age and drink heavily.
If adults serve alcohol to minors, they may face a plethora of legal consequences:
n Adults risk a maximum sentence of twelve months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
n Others can sue them if they give alcohol to anyone under 21 and that person, in turn, hurts someone, hurts him/herself or damages property.
n Officers can take any alcohol, money, or property used in committing the offense.
For more information, please call us at the Alliance for Better Communities at 315-788-4660.
The writer is project director for the Alliance for Better Communities.