Recent study illustrates increase in underage drinking

Emily Brown, Copy Editor

A new study sponsored by MetLife Foundation indicated an increase in acceptance of underage drinking by teenagers.

According to the 22nd Annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, 45 percent of teens do not see drinking five or more alcoholic drinks a day as a problem.

BIONIC Club sponsor Tina Martinat said after working so closely with the anti-drug and alcohol group, she did not find the statistics surprising.

“These are kids,” she said. “They really haven’t lived long enough to know the devastation that can be caused from the use and abuse of alcohol by a minor.”

The study showed 31 percent of teens strongly disapproved of underage drinking.

Martinat said some teenagers do not find underage drinking a problem because of ignorance and a sense of immortality.

“You get alcohol in you, you pretty much don’t have any inhibitions,” she said. “There is no fear. You are not thinking straight. When you have these young kids as teenagers, who really don’t have enough maturity anyway, and you start coupling alcohol and getting behind the wheel — I mean, it is a disaster.”

She said the greater acceptance of consuming large amounts of alcohol could also be due to problems with today’s culture.

“As a society, we have so many evils,” she said. “We’ve got drugs. We’ve got gangs. People maybe view [alcohol abuse] as not as bad. Also, you can go to liquor store and buy alcohol. It’s not like you can just go to a store and buy drugs.”

According to the study, 73 percent of teenagers report having friends who drink alcohol at least once a week.

BIONIC president senior Maria Cobb said she did not find the statistics surprising. Cobb said the acceptance comes from the stories told at school and the belief that drinking is a social activity.

“Once one person starts, they get their friends to do it,” Cobb said. “It becomes a chain reaction. It kind of starts building and building. It just becomes socially acceptable. It becomes something everyone wants to do.”

In the study, the top reasons for drinking were for fun and the desire to feel included. Cobb said it is essential to create alcohol-free activities at school and in the community to provide a safe atmosphere for students.

“This is a perfect opportunity to continue and to show how devastating this can be,” she said. “We need to show them it is not OK; it is not right. It can hurt you; it can hurt your friends. It can kill people. You can have a great time without alcohol.”

Though the study showed a higher level of acceptance, the percentage of teens reporting actually consuming alcohol declined. It was down to 35 percent from a high of 50 percent in 1998.

However, there was a 67 percent increase in the past year in students who reported using Ecstasy. Marijuana use among teens increased by 22 percent in 2011 compared to the 39 percent usage in 2010.

“There are so many different kinds of things kids will try,” Martinat said. “My question is what is wrong with life that makes them do that? There are just so many underlying issues.”