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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
Vandalism and Property Damage
Vandalism and property damage represent yet another set of consequences influenced by alcohol. Intoxicated youth are more likely to commit these acts regardless of their age, but vandalism and property damage are a particular problem on college campuses. Wechsler et al. (2002) report that about 11 percent of college students admitted to having damaged property while drinking. The cost of these behaviors is picked up by the college or by the local communities if the vandalism happens off campus.
A single episode of alcohol-impaired judgment can have immediate consequences (leading to death, injury, or arrest, for example) with long-term effects. In addition, heavy alcohol use at a young age has been implicated in long-term changes in the youths’ life prospects. Individuals who begin drinking before age 15 appear to be at greater risk for serious life-long problems (Hingson and Kenkel, 2004). For example, young people who begin drinking before age 15 are significantly more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at older ages. Youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 have a 41 percent chance of future alcohol dependence, compared with a 10 percent chance for those who begin after the legal drinking age (Grant and Dawson, 1997). Some become dependent during adolescence.2 Analyses of the 1999 Harvard School of Public Health National College Alcohol Survey of students age 19 or older, after controlling for a variety of factors, found that the earlier they had first drunk to intoxication, the more likely they were to experience alcohol dependence and frequent heavy drinking in college (Gruber et al., 1996).
Frequent heavy use is associated with low self-esteem, depression (which is probably related to greater suicide attempts among underage drinkers), conduct disorders, antisocial behavior, dependency on other drugs and tobacco, and anxiety (Brown and Tapert, in press). Adolescents and college-age students who use alcohol have higher rates of academic problems and poor performance than nondrinkers. A Call to Action (NIAAA, 2002) noted that about 25 percent of college students report that using alcohol resulted in problematic consequences, such as missing classes, falling behind in school work, performing badly on papers and exams, and receiving lower grades overall.
Data from the NHSDA show that in 2000, between 4 and 12 percent of young people aged 12 to 20 met alcohol abuse or dependence diagnostic criteria.