The use of alcohol and tobacco during adolescence is considered a strong predictor of the dependence on these and other substances during adulthood. Underage drinking and smoking can have a detrimental impact on the developing brain, and increase adolescents’ risk for mental health disorders and addiction. It was previously found that Utah youth had a high prevalence of simultaneously using alcohol and tobacco products. The students also had a higher likelihood of using alcohol and e-cigarettes compared to conventional cigarettes.
These trends have been reconfirmed by a report published by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and the Utah Department of Human Services (DHS) in February 2018. The report analyzed data from the 2017 Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) survey. The analysis showed that 59.8 percent students in grades 8, 10 and 12 who consumed
alcohol in the past 30 days in 2017 also used e-cigarettes, while 23.1 percent students reported current use of both alcohol and conventional cigarettes.
Conversely, 70.6 percent students who smoked conventional cigarettes reported current alcohol use, while 47.9 percent students who smoked e-cigarettes reported using alcohol. A district-wise analysis showed that current alcohol use was highest (15.3 percent) in the Southeast Utah health district, followed by the health districts of Salt Lake County (11.9 percent), Summit County (11.8 percent) and Weber-Morgan (11.7 percent).
According to Susannah Burt, prevention program manager at the DHS Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, using either alcohol or nicotine can impact teens’ developing brains. “Use of these products alone or together can ‘hard-wire’ the brain for addiction into their adult life,” she said.
High level of parental complicity in underage drinking
The SHARP report also presented an analysis of the place where Utah school students consumed alcohol:
- Nearly 73 percent of Utah students who consumed alcohol in the past 30 days did so at another individual’s home without parental permission.
- A relatively high percentage of students (41.7 percent) consumed alcohol at another individual’s home with parental permission, while 36.1 percent consumed alcohol in their own home with their parents’ consent.
- 3 percent students consumed alcohol in a place outside of town.
The DHS previously indicated that alcohol had historically been the most widely used substance among Utah’s youth. Underage drinking rates decreased significantly between 2005 and 2015, but there was still reason to be concerned. While Utah’s youth had lower drinking rates compared to youth across the United States, they had a higher likelihood of engaging in binge drinking compared to their peers nationally. It was also identified that parental consent for underage drinking was likely an important factor contributing to Utah’s youth alcohol consumption.
Utah health officials suggested that measures needed to be put in place to restrict the state’s youth from accessing alcohol and vaping products. Parents were also encouraged to have discussions with their children and enforce strict rules regarding the use of alcohol and tobacco products.
Dangers of underage drinking
Alcohol is the most widely misused substance among American youth. Underage drinking causes nearly 4,300 deaths among minor youth. It increases the risk of unintentional injuries and physical/sexual assault, inhibits decision-making abilities and leads to social, legal and other problems. Individuals who start drinking during adolescence are at significant risk of developing alcohol dependence or addiction during their lifetime.
Although the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21 years, there is widespread prevalence of underage alcohol consumption. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 7.3 million youth aged 12-20 (19.3 percent of the age group) reported past-month alcohol use, while 4.5 million (12.1 percent) and 1.1 million (2.8 percent) youth reported binge drinking and heavy alcohol use, respectively.
Treatment for teen alcohol addiction
The recovery from alcohol addiction may be a long-term process during which teens can experience a range of positive and negative emotions. Located in Delta, Utah, White River Academy is a leading therapeutic boarding school for boys aged 12 to 17. Our evidence-based alcohol addiction treatment for teens not only helps in treating their alcohol dependence but also restores their emotional well-being. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with our experts for more information on the best residential alcohol addiction treatment centers for teens.