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Underage drinking can set stage for adult problem behaviors

Drunken driving is a serious problem across the country as well as in Michigan. In fact, excessive drinking in general creates trouble everywhere year-round.

For minors, though, alcohol consumption, particularly during summer holidays such as the Fourth of July, seems to be a rite of passage into adulthood. One survey of people ages 18 to 40, for instance, found that 83 percent of Americans believe that Independence Day is the event when people consume the most alcohol.

Conducted by Caron Treatment Centers, the study illustrates the attitudes that help make underage drinking a problem across the country. Almost 80 percent of respondents said they had tried alcohol before age 21, the legal limit to drink alcohol. Surprisingly, 10 percent of respondents said they had consumed alcohol before age 12.

Drinking alcohol before reaching adulthood can affect a teenager's brain development and decision making leading to poorer reasoning and judgment during adulthood. Behavioral issues and psychological problems such as anxiety and depression are also more common amongst young drinkers.

Researchers note that adults, especially parents, can model behavior that keeps minors from developing an early relationship with alcohol. For example, 70 percent of adults remember from their own teen years seeing adults behaving badly while intoxicated, including driving while drunk.

For some young adults, alcohol consumption is part of growing up, but drinking alcohol before the age of 21 is both dangerous and illegal. Excess alcohol consumption at any age increases the risk of drunken driving. A conviction for a DWI offense can mean prison time, fines and a suspended driver's license.

Like anyone accused of a crime, however, someone who has been charged with underage drinking should consult an attorney. A strong defense can challenge the allegations and use other legal options to limit the damage that a drunken-driving charge will have on his or her education and professional future.

Source: Empowher.com, "A Summer of Drinking: Alcohol's Effect on the Teen Mind," Rheyanne Weaver, July 4, 2013

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