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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
nonfatal and 30 percent of fatal alcohol-related drownings and burns (Levy et al., 1999).
Drinking not only increases one’s risk of being involved in a traffic accident or suffering another unintentional injury, it is also implicated in deaths and injuries associated with violence and suicidal behavior. Frequent heavy alcohol use is associated with increased feelings of hopelessness, suicide ideation, and suicide attempts. Alcohol has been reported to be involved in 36 percent of homicides, 12 percent of male suicides, and 8 percent of female suicides involving people under 21—a total of about 1,500 homicides and 300 suicides in 2000. Homicide is the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001). By racial and ethnic group, deaths due to homicide for ages 15 to 24 are the leading cause of death for African Americans, second for Latinos, and fourth for whites. In that age group, suicide is the second leading cause of death for whites, third for Latinos, and third for African Americans (Anderson, 2002). Caetano and Clark (1998) report that the incidence of social consequences from drinking among Latinas is almost three times higher than for white females, despite generally lower rates of drinking.
According to Levy et al. (1999), individuals under the age of 21 commit 45 percent of rapes, 44 percent of robberies, and 37 percent of other assaults, and it is estimated that 50 percent of violent crime is alcohol-related (Harwood et al., 1998).1 A report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (1994) found that on college campuses 95 percent of all violent crime and 90 percent of college rapes involve the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim, or both. Although it is difficult to disentangle alcohol use from other possible contributing factors, such as depression, emerging evidence demonstrates a causal link between alcohol and suicide (Light et al., 2003).
Sexual violence and unplanned and unprotected sexual activity constitute yet another set of alcohol-related problems. As reported in A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges (National
Underage drinkers are also more likely than their nondrinking peers to carry a weapon—44 percent of frequent heavy drinkers had carried a weapon, and 22 percent had carried a gun in the past 30 days, compared with only 10 and 3 percent, respectively, of nondrinkers. Carrying a weapon increases the dangers associated with drinking; not surprisingly, injuries due to a physical fight were more common among frequent heavy drinkers (13 percent) than for nondrinking peers (only about 2 percent).