Underage Drinking | It Isn’t Worth It

Stop. Don’t do it.

With three large universities and seventeen other colleges and institutions, Washington D.C. has a reputation for being a college-town. There are currently about 63,000 students in Washington’s three largest colleges: George Washington University, Georgetown University, and American University. But that’s not all the city has to offer, for D.C. is also home to a vibrant night life with some of the country’s most famous bars and clubs. However, putting these two together leaves the city with a huge underage drinking problem. This problem isn’t unique to the District, but rather is part of a larger public health issue that faces the nation and threatens thousands of lives every year.

Your First Drinking Age Through History

In 1965, the average age people in the US tried their first drink was 17.5. In 2003, that number jumped all the way down to 14. As American’s are exposed to alcohol at a younger and younger age, the problems associated with alcoholism worsen. In fact, teenagers who reportedly start to drink before the age of 15 were four times more likely to report depending on alcohol at some point throughout their lives. But in order to combat early onset alcoholism, you first must understand why teenagers are so susceptible to drinking. Around age 9, children tend to have a negative point of view towards drinking, but around age 13 these beliefs tend to shift and become positive. Furthermore, at this point in their lives teenagers are more likely to take risks and seek thrills, and for some that means drinking. Hereditary factors also play a huge role in the likelihood of underage drinking as well as the environment that they grow up in. Lastly, youthful teenagers tend not to experience hangovers or other negative experiences associated with binge drinking that adults feel, meaning there are less repercussions for doing so.

Why Should You Care?

But why is this an issue? Well there are many reasons Washington residents should be concerned. For one, D.C. has some of the strictest underage drinking laws in the US. Currently it is illegal to possess, consume, purchase, or attempt to purchase alcohol for anyone under the age of 21, with no family or location exceptions that many other states have.

DC statute § 25–1002 is entitled: Purchase, possession or consumption by persons under 21; misrepresentation of age. Violators are subject to fines up to $300 and up to 90 days incarceration for a first violation; a fine of not more than $600 and suspension of driving privileges in the District for 180 days upon a second violation; and upon the third and each subsequent violation a fine of not more than $1,000 and suspension of driving privileges in the District for one year.

The Beginning Of A Host Of Health Issues

Underage drinking also causes a lot of health problems limiting the development of the brain, liver damage, and disrupting the hormonal balance during puberty. Lastly, and most importantly, underage drinking is responsible for the deaths of about 5,000 minors each year. This includes 1,900 from drinking and driving, 1,600 from homicides, and 300 from suicides. By resolving or limiting the issues of underage drinking, we can save thousands of lives every year.