There is no denying the presence of alcohol in our society. Anywhere you look, a celebrity promotes the newest liquor brand, or a commercial glamorizes alcohol in the hands of your favorite Hollywood star. For many people, alcohol serves many purposes, from reducing symptoms of mental illness to increasing confidence in social situations and even helping to relax at the end of a long day. The alcohol industry is a billion-dollar industry, and the surprising new trend in alcohol use may change the landscape of the alcohol industry.
History of Alcohol
Like many trends in society, alcohol use has historically been controversial. Alcohol consumption comes with many risks, especially when you drink in excess and drink frequently. Due to its risks, alcohol use has been made illegal in the past, and states have struggled with identifying an appropriate legal age across the country. In 1919, the 19th Amendment, which banned the sale, manufacturing, and distribution of alcohol, was ratified by Congress. Prohibition ended in 1933 with the ratification of the 21st Amendment, making alcohol once again legal in the U.S.
Between 1970 and 1975, 29 states across the country changed the legal drinking age to 18, 19, or 20 due to changes in the legal voting age; this led to an increase in traffic accidents. To mitigate teenage drinking risks, outreach and advocacy efforts encouraged each state to raise the minimum drinking age. In 1984, congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which made 21 the legal age across all 50 states.
Risks of Alcohol Use
The risks of alcohol consumption can’t be denied, with consequences ranging from impaired judgment to mental and physical health risks. In some cases, the damage can be irreversible.
Statistics that highlight the risks of alcohol use include the following:
- In 2019, the number of deaths due to liver disease resulting from alcohol consumption was 24,110, and the total number of alcohol-induced deaths (excluding homicide and suicide) was 39,043.
- Underage drinking can impact the brain’s ability to develop correctly.
- Drinking alcohol can lead to injuries, assaults, overdoses, and death.
- Misuse of alcohol can contribute to the development of heart disease, liver disease, stroke, depression, and certain types of cancers such as colon, rectal, larynx, and esophagus.
- Alcohol consumption can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FASD) in pregnant women.
Adult Alcohol Use Today
Alcohol use has been prevalent across many generations, socioeconomic statuses, and cultures. Drinking alcohol is normalized in many social settings, such as outdoor barbecues, concerts, and sporting events. The accessibility of alcohol is at our fingertips. Research on adult drinking includes:
- In 2019, 47.1% of adults between the ages of 18 and 22 reported consumed alcohol within the past 30 days.
- In 2019, 29.6% of adults between 19 and 22 when asked reported binge drinking within the past month.
For some people, drinking in moderation remains possible. Others develop an alcohol use disorder which can have significant negative consequences on their lives and their health. Underage drinking comes with its own set of risks and health consequences.
The emerging trends in alcohol consumption may surprise you—they aren’t associated with adult alcohol use but with teen and underage alcohol use. Research is suggesting that younger generations are turning away from alcohol consumption. In fact, research from 2002 to 2019 shows that:
- There was an overall decline in underage drinking.
- Teens aged 16-17 years old reported a 41.1% decline in alcohol use in the last 30 days at the time the survey was completed.
- Teens aged 14-15 years old reported a 54.7% decline in alcohol use in the past 30 days.
- The number was even higher among 12- to 13-year-olds, with a reported 61.9% reduction in reported alcohol consumption within the past 30 days.
The emerging research on teenage alcohol use indicates that teenagers today are less likely to engage in underage drinking than the generations before them. The result is that more teens today are giving their brains time to fully develop before introducing an addictive substance like alcohol into their system. While the trends head in the right direction, it remains vital to recognize that the availability and accessibility of alcohol remain high.
Today, teenagers get exposed to several different social media platforms that can advertise alcohol. It is critical to remain vigilant with your teenager. Talk with your teen about the risks associated with alcohol use, including health and behavioral. If you think your teen may be suffering from an alcohol use disorder, speak to your doctor immediately or contact the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-662-4357. Help is available to you and your teen.
Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.