WASHINGTON – After placing second on the Princeton Review's party school list and ninth on Playboy's party list,Ohio University students can revel in helping to achieve another ranking: Ohio's sixth-in-the-nation rank for the social cost of underage drinking.
Underage drinking cost Ohio $3.1 billion in 2001,according to study released last week by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. The national cost is $61.9 billion.
“Ohio has a wealth of colleges and universities” and it is “very likely” that is why the state ranked so high,said Stacey Frohnapfel Hasson,chief of communication and training with the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.
In 2001,the base year for the study due to availability of data,an estimated 13.2 million underage drinkers consumed alcohol each month. The national social cost of drinking was $2,210 per youth ages 12 to 20,while in Ohio the cost was $2,748 each.
“Ohio has real strong European roots. And kids drinking is not seen as a priority issue,” Frohnapfel Hasson said. “It's not necessarily even seen as an area of concern in many communities.”
Parents are more concerned with marijuana smoking,Frohnapfel Hasson said. More teens are in substance abuse treatment for “getting high” than for drinking,even though more teens have drinking problems,she said.
Federal spending to prevent drug use is 25 times federal spending to prevent underage drinking,even though alcohol kills four times as many youths,Ted Miller,study researcher,said.
Alcohol is considered a rite of passage,and that perception needs to be changed,Frohnapfel Hasson said. The state reached that conclusion last year after a series of town hall meetings across the state with parents,educators and experts to examine underage drinking,she said.
The state needs to increase the “perception of risk and social disapproval,regarding childhood and underage drinking,” Frohnapfel Hasson said.
Ohio is not alone in having to combat an underage drinking problem. Ahead of Ohio on the list are Alaska,New Mexico,Rhode Island,Nevada and Delaware.
In assessing the cost of underage drinking,researchers tabulated a “quality-of-life” cost,which estimates loss of wages and lost lifetime earnings of people incapacitated or killed by alcohol-related incidents.
Deducting the quality-of-life estimates leaves $21.3 billion that researchers pegged to the number and cost of fatal and nonfatal consequences of underage drinking,including traffic crashes,violence,suicide,high-risk sex and dependency treatment.
The study found a “devastating tidal wave of alcohol-related harm,” Miller said.
In 2001,there were 3,170 deaths,about 540,000 violent crimes and about 400,000 risky sexual encounters nationally because of underage drinking,Miller said
“Serious attention has focused on problems resulting from youth use of illicit drugs and tobacco,” the study concluded,and “youth drinking behaviors merit the same kind of serious attention.”