If you are a minor in Virginia, you most likely know that you are not permitted to purchase or possess alcohol until the age of 21. While there are a range of legal consequences that can occur if you partake in alcohol before that time, underage kids who drink are also at risk of decreased academic success, serious injury and even death in some cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underage drinking is widespread among minors. For instance, in 2015 kids ranging in age from 12 to 20 were asked about their drinking habits in the past 30 days. Up to 20 percent of minors in this age group admitted to using alcohol during that time, while 8 percent admitted to operating a motor vehicle while drunk over the same period.
Kids that drink before 21 are also more likely to experience a host of issues when compared to those who do not drink. For instance, underage drinkers may suffer from impaired brain development, including problems with memory. These cognitive defects can take a toll on school work, which is reflected in bad grades and higher rates of failure and absenteeism. Underage drinkers are at a greater risk of developing dependency issues, especially when drinking begins before the age of 15.
Underage drinking is also associated with increased rates of injury and death. This is particularly true for minors who drive while drunk, who face a heightened risk of alcohol-involved car crashes. In 2010 over 4,300 underage drinkers died as a result of their alcohol use, and 189,000 required emergency medical treatment because of their drinking.