Council Holds Meetings on Juvenile Drinking

A town hall meeting in New Jersey on March 26 by the Center for Prevention and Counseling drove home the dangers of drinking to New Jersey teens and their parents. A council member who attended emphasized that decisions made when drinking can change a young person’s life permanently.

Statistics bear out that it is common for underage drinking to start in very early youth. On average, boys in the U.S. take their first full drinks at the age of 12. For girls, the age is 13. The dangers of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning escalate when teens treat drinking like a game. When kids put gummy bears in alcohol or gulp down Jello shots, they will consume much more than three or four drinks, which is usually considered binge drinking.

While some might view teen alcohol consumption as just for fun, one counselor emphasized that anyone she knows with a substance abuse problem began drinking while in middle school. A former professional basketball player also recently spoke to students about his alcohol addiction, his subsequent use of cocaine, oxycodone and heroin, and the high price he paid as he lost his family and career. He began drinking at that critical age as a preteen.

According to New Jersey law, any adult who gives alcohol to a young person can be fined a maximum of $15,000 and sentenced to five years in prison. If the minor is injured or dies as a result, the adult can be held responsible. Someone who is charged with underage drinking might not be found liable although the adult who serves the drinks may be liable for the juvenile’s action. Criminal defense attorneys may be able to negotiate reduced charges for underage defendants.

Source: Careers at Quincy, “Night of hard lessons on underage drinking,” Jessica Masulli Reyes, March 26, 2013

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