The “say no to drugs” speech is something we are all familiar with. We remember Red Ribbon Week at school, the pep talks from professionals and adults advising us to stay away from dangerous substances. However, there is one substance that is likely in almost every home of every high school student that hears the “say no to drugs” speech. They are told all day long at school to stay focused on studies, do not allow drugs to ruin their lives, and to maintain self-control when offered a pill, a joint, or a dose of anything toxic. Then the student gets on the bus, gets home, walks in their door, opens the refrigerator, and grabs a can of soda, right next to Mom and Dad’s case of Bud Light.

From Jan. 1, 2015 - July 14, 2016, public records from the Stephenville Police Department show that 5 people under the age of 21 were charged with Minor in Possession (MIP), and 25 people under the age of 21 were charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI). According to Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the legal penalty for underage drinking can be the receipt of a Class C misdemeanor, a fine of $500-$2,000, 8-40 hours of community service, 30-180 days of a suspended driver’s license, and possible confinement in jail for up to 180 days. These are all legal consequences that a teenager can face for being caught and charged with alcohol on hand or in their system.

Drinking before the age of 21 can cause health problems, both short-term and long-term. Regarding the long-term health effects, according to The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking, a 2007 report from the Office of the Surgeon General, underage drinking “can cause alterations in the structure and function of the developing brain, which continues to mature into the mid- to late twenties.” So, because the mind has not yet fully developed, the effects alcohol can have on the maturation of the brain can be detrimental. The short-term health effects can be incredibly hindering and even deadly. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “4,358 people under age 21 die each year from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning. More than 190,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries in 2008 alone.”

Minors are also less likely to use rational judgement about drinking alcohol than someone over the age of 21. According to AddictionCenter.com, “teens are particularly vulnerable to binge drinking because their impulse control has not yet fully matured.” As a young person, we can all agree that we were not the same person that we are now. Science and statistics show that, in time, learning life lessons, furthering our education, and sharpening our minds lead us to be more rational and logical decision-makers.

Parents, please try to talk to your kids about underage drinking. Let them know about maturity, self-control, and the laws that pertain to it. Those of you of all ages that feel you may be dealing with excessive drinking or the pressures and temptations to drink underage, please contact a professional treatment center.

Do not be afraid to reach out for help. One of the resources in Stephenville that can be of aid is STAR Council at 965-5515. Avoid allowing the time of your life to cost you your life.