Underage drinking comes with consequences

ESCANABA — With graduations and school concluding for the year, there is an increase in opportunities for teen drinking. Officials want to remind local adults and youths alike that underage drinking has repercussions both in the eyes of the law and for the health of young people.

“So the younger you start using alcohol the more likely you are to have a problem with addiction or dependence. In fact, 90 percent of people that struggle with addiction started before the age of 21,” said Michelle Chaillier, a drug and alcohol prevention specialist at Public Health, Delta and Menominee Counties.

With the drinking culture locally, a vast majority of parents don’t have an issue with their kids drinking and usually have the mentality that it is safer allowing their kids to drink at home, according to Chaillier.

“One of the issues that we run into is we get parents that say, ‘well I’m going to provide alcohol for my child because I know if they’re drinking at home they’re drinking safely.’ And of course we know from research that’s not the case, but a lot of parents feel that way,” Chaillier said.

When it comes to young adults drinking before the age of 21, there are ripple effects that can negatively impact the youth throughout their life.

Chaillier explained the biggest issue about teen drinking is teen brains are not fully developed. She said when alcohol is introduced to an underdeveloped brain, it can cause the brain to develop addictive tendencies faster.

According to Wait21.org, there is a one in four risk of becoming addicted if you drink, smoke or use other drugs before the age of 18. There is a one in 25 chance of becoming addicted if you drink, smoke or use drugs after the age of 21. Wait21 is an organization focused on educating area youths to make healthier choices.

Chaillier said the best way to prevent teen drinking is through educating parents and kids.

A way to educate families on the negative effects of underage drinking are programs like “Every 15 Minutes.” Both Chaillier and Michigan State Police Community Service Trooper Dale Hongisto at the Gladstone Post are directly involved in bringing the “Every 15 Minutes” program to local area schools.

The “Every 15 Minutes” program offers real life experience without the real life risks and consequences. It is a two-day event designed to dramatically instill in high school juniors and seniors the potentially dangerous consequences of drinking while driving and how their choices have a ripple effect not only on themselves, but others in the community.

Hongisto reiterated Chaillier’s sentiment that educating teens and adults is the best way to prevent teen drinking.

“We can educate the younger folks on the … repercussions and the potential bad results of underage drinking. I think at the same time it’s important that adults get educated on the repercussions of either allowing minors to drink in their presence or even supplying alcohol to minors,” he said.

According to Michigan law, the first offense of being a minor in possession of alcohol (MIP) is a civil infraction with a $200 fine that is abstractable to the Secretary of State office. For a second or subsequent offense, it is a misdemeanor. In that case, the youth would be arraigned in district court and could face jail time with fines.

Furnishing alcohol to minors is a misdemeanor offense and the adult caught doing so would be arraigned by the district court judge and face jail time. The fines under this offense are under the discretion of the judge.

“As our department has always stated, we will take underage drinking seriously and we’ll take supplying alcohol to minors very seriously. And if either of those happen and they get caught there will be penalties,” Hongisto said.

COMMENTS