Getting to be 21 is an enormous event.
Why? It means that you’ll be of legal age to purchase and consume alcohol. Will you be ready for it?
Some young people get the idea they should be prepared for it. They think, “What will it taste like? How will I like it? How will it affect me? I'll be as cool as my buddies, who I've seen drinking.”
It’s for reasons like these that the typical first use of alcohol is reported, by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), to begin around age 12. In 2003, the average age of the first use of alcohol was 14.
These kids are getting prepared. By the end of the 8th grade nearly four out of 10 students have consumed alcohol at least once. And by the end of high school, that number includes seven out of 10. They’re really getting ready for college and keg parties, their first job and their own paychecks to pay for their own booze.
But consuming alcohol once really doesn’t prepare you for your 21st birthday. How does two drinks feel? Or four or five? And possibly more? It’s called binge drinking and, according to the Center for Disease Control: 1.5 percent of 12 and 13 year-olds; 7.8 percent of 14 and 15 year-olds; 19.4 percent of 16 and 17 year-olds; and 35.7 percent of 18 to 20-olds were binge drinkers.
Again, according to the Center for Disease Control, between 1993 and 2001, 18 to 20 year-olds experienced the steepest increase in binge drinking rates – 56 percent.
Now, binge drinking has its drawbacks. It produces drunkeness, alcohol poisoning, and hangovers. But some of those who do it are eventually able to understand binge drinking’s effects and wish they had enough sense to stop it.
Some underage drinkers lose their ability to drink; death by alcohol eliminates some 5,000 underage drinkers every year.
That is also why a group of citizens in Tucumcari have been focusing on underage drinking. They recall that a 12-year-old boy drowned in a Tucumcari canal and his blood alcohol level was found to be twice the limit.
Yes, being prepared to become 21 or thinking you can act like 21 year olds has its hazards. And treatment? That’s scarce. In 2002, 1.4 million youth met the criteria for treatment of alcohol abuse or dependence. But only 227,000 actually received any treatment. That’s according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
Now just suppose that, in the process of getting prepared for 21 by actually getting into drinking, you wish you hadn’t? Suppose you’d like to quit the drinking that you started?
But you can’t. You can’t stop. You’re just not prepared to quit drinking.
What should you do? What can you do?
You are not alone. Others have faced your problem. And Alcoholics Anonymous will take you in – even if you aren’t 21.
Chelle Delnaey is associate publisher of the Quay County Sun. She can be reached by emailing email@example.com or calling 461-1952.