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August 2013 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Manhattan Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family / Columnists / Teens / Letter from College

Teens are in a pickle over drinking

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In today’s society, teenagers seem in a rush to grow up. Having a fake ID and drinking may make youngsters feel free and mature, but underage drinking has many severe consequences.

Underage drinking is a very common problem among high school and college students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 11 percent of the alcohol consumed in the United States is imbibed by adolescents under 21 years old. This is a particularly troubling statistic because alcohol is a highly addictive drug. (Yes, it is classified as a drug, just like tobacco, cocaine, and marijuana.) Drinking underage may be the beginning of a life of alcohol addiction. Thus, the legal drinking age is a precaution that should not be ignored.

And alcohol is a depressant that often affects brain development. This is why it is so dangerous for underage youths to drink. Before the age of 21, most young brains are still developing and consumption of alcohol can damage one’s cognitive ability.

I only recently became aware that drinking was common behavior among high school students. I have friends who proudly flaunt their fake IDs, usually phony driver’s licenses from Connecticut or Vermont. They speak of how easy it was to obtain a forged ID and even offered to get me one. (Don’t worry, I passed on their offer!) When I asked them what they used their ID for, they honestly replied, “To get into bars and clubs and to get drinks.” There have even been a few instances where students have actually brought beer into my school. From what I have heard, many parties, like those following large school events, such as theater productions or sports games, often involve very drunk teens.

What really surprised me was how casually and freely students discussed this issue. There seemed to be no secretive fear of having a fake ID. It almost seemed like it was a “cool thing” that comes with bragging rights. Underage drinking also seems to have no shameful stigma attached to it. To me it was baffling, for I have had a sip out of my parent’s wine glass once, and the taste of alcohol was revolting.

So, why then, does drinking seem so attractive to teens? Let’s not forget that underage drinking and having a fake ID are illegal. Getting caught with an illegal drink or ID can lead to fines, not to mention complete embarrassment.

In my opinion, two major factors allow underage drinking to grow out of control. First, although law enforcement have tried to crack down on this problem by confiscating fake IDs and busting alcohol-infused parties, it is far too easy for teens to obtain alcohol. Stealing a pack of beer from the fridge is all it takes.

Second, and more prominently, underage drinking is too frequently romanticized in American pop culture. Music, literature, TV shows, and movies often glorify alcohol consumption by youth. Several movies feature the comedic scene where a teen tries to spike the punch bowl during prom. In a music video from a pop song, teens are partying at a bar or breaking into their parents’ wine cellar. On one TV show, every episode features two plastered teenage lovers making out in the bedroom. A subway ad campaign makes a bottle of beer look completely angelic with the halo of light radiating off it.

In pop culture, alcohol has nothing to do with hangovers, drunk driving, date rape, or alcohol poisoning. Instead, it’s associated with fun and games all the time. In reality, however, someone always gets hurt.

The newspaper is littered with horrific stories of the aftermath of underage drinking or partying. Many teens have gotten into fights at bars. At parties, many girls have been taken advantage of sexually while still under the disorienting effects of alcohol. Other teens have died from alcohol poisoning or from driving drunk. These are not situations you want to find yourselves in. In the spur of the moment and often fueled by peer pressure, you may not be able to control yourself with a drink in your hands. Do not be the next unfortunate headline.

Let’s face it, teens; you have a lifetime ahead of you in which to drink responsibly without breaking the law. Good things come to those who wait, and it is the same with drinking. Underage drinking is not worth the trouble. Life offers plenty more exciting and legal fun times. Sometimes, when we grow up too quickly, we gain so little, but miss so much. Don’t be in a rush, cherish your time now and look forward to the future. Next time, save the ID for the scrapbook and pass up the bottle of beer for a glass of ice water. It is cool, too!

Aglaia Ho is a 17-year-old student from Queens who enjoys writing. Her work has been published in Creative Kids, Skipping Stones, Daily News-Children’s Pressline, and The State of the Wild.

Updated 7:00 pm, October 28, 2016
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