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Underage Drinking
Alcohol use by persons under age 21 years is a major public health problem. Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs, and is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth. Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks. On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers. In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.

Drinking Levels among Youth
The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days...
39% drank some amount of alcohol.
22% binge drank.
8% drove after drinking alcohol.
24% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

Consequences of Underage Drinking
Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience...
School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
Physical and sexual assault.
Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
Memory problems.
Abuse of other drugs.
Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
Death from alcohol poisoning.

In general, the risk of youth experiencing these problems is greater for those who binge drink than for those who do not binge drink.

Youth who start drinking before age 15 years are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years.
What does the passage deal with?
  1. Legal drinking age
  2. Underage drinking
  3. Adult drinking
  4. Consequences of underage drinking
Teens abuse prescription and illicit drugs more than alcohol.
  1. True
  2. False
Which section is most likely to deter teens who want to engage in underage drinking?
  1. Drinking Levels among Youth
  2. Consequences of Underage Drinking
  3. The first paragraph
  4. The last paragraph
Describe some of the problems caused by underage drinking.
  • Sample answer: Underage drinking can cause legal, social, and physical problems. It can lead to trouble in school and trouble keeping friends.
What is binge drinking?
  1. Drinking a lot at once
  2. Drinking a little at once
  3. Only having one drink
  4. Drinking as much as an adult
Legal Drinking Age
The Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, establishing 21 as the minimum legal purchase age.

Since then:
Drinking by high school seniors has fallen substantially — from 66% to 42% (see chart). During this same period, binge drinking by high school seniors — that is, having five or more drinks on an occasion — has fallen from 37% to 24%.

Despite these improvements, too many teens still drink.

In 2012, 42% of 12th graders, 28% of 10th graders, and 11% of 8th graders, reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. That same year, about 24% of 12th graders, 16% of 10th graders, and 5% of 8th graders, reported binge drinking in the last two weeks.

Why did Congress pass the national drinking age act?
After Prohibition, nearly all states adopted a minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) of 21. Between 1970 and 1975, however, 29 states lowered the MLDA to 18, 19, or 20, largely in response to the change in the voting age. Studies conducted at the time showed that youth traffic crashes increased as states lowered their MLDA. In addition, the "blood borders" between states with different MLDAs caught public attention after highly-publicized crashes in which youth below the legal drinking age would drive to an adjoining state with a lower MLDA, drink legally, and crash on their way home.

Advocacy groups urged states to raise their MLDA to 21. Several did so in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but others did not. To encourage a national drinking age, Congress enacted the national MLDA. A review by the U.S. General Accounting Office, conducted in 1988, found that raising the drinking age reduced youth drinking, youth driving after drinking, and alcohol-related traffic accidents among youth.

Is the legal drinking age still important?
Yes. Injuries from teen drinking are not inevitable, and reducing teen access to alcohol is a national priority.
Creating a legal drinking age had a negative effect on drinking.
  1. True
  2. False
What effect did lowering the legal drinking age in states have on crashes?
  1. It increased the number of crashes
  2. It decreased the number of crashes
  3. It had no effect on the number of crashes
  4. It was not discussed in the passage
What effect did lowering the drinking age in one state have on neighboring states?
  • Sample answer: Teens from neighboring states would drive to another state where they could legally drink, get drunk, and then drive home and crash their cars.
The author would support raising the drinking age even higher.
  1. True
  2. False
What should the author add to support the argument?
  1. Ways to reduce the percentage of teens who drink
  2. Additional statistics on teen drinking
  3. A discussion of court cases involving teen drinking
  4. Specific state laws related to legal drinking age

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