DR. WALLACE: I'm 19, and I have done a lot of serious drinking so far in my short life. Recently, I decided to give up all hard liquor because I was drunk last fall and almost caused a serious auto accident. It's a miracle I got home in one piece that night. This made me swear off hard booze.
It was difficult to give up whiskey because I've been drinking it for four years, as I started at 15. I had an uncle who used to let me steal a few sips out of his drinks whenever I went to visit him. He would not actually pour me a drink and serve it to me, but when I asked him what whiskey tasted like, he did give me a snort of it. It did taste strong at first, but the next time I saw him, I asked for another little sip. He obliged, and this became our routine whenever I visited him. It wasn't long after that I got some older boys to buy me a little whiskey of my own and, as they say, the rest is history — at least MY history. Now, however, I feel like I'm doing my part to reduce the number of teen alcohol-related auto accidents. I'm whiskey-free! It's been nearly seven months since I had any at all. Aren't you proud of me? I'm now a beer drinker only! — Cutting back, via email
CUTTING BACK: I'd be prouder of you if you'd stop drinking all alcohol! You have admitted to being a serious drinker, and I advise you to seek help immediately. Start by contacting Alcoholics Anonymous.
The only way that you can do your part in reducing the number of alcohol-related auto accidents is to eliminate drinking all alcoholic beverages. One 12-ounce can of beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled liquor are equally intoxicating, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The legal definition of intoxication is based on blood alcohol concentration, and you are legally drunk if your concentration reaches 0.08% (in most states). But for drivers or drinkers who are less experienced, a level of 0.05% or even lower can be dangerous!
Teenagers can get into a lot of trouble due to alcohol: Even teenagers who don't drink can be at risk. Decades of statistics show where part of the problem lies, and this can lead to better communication between adults and teenagers. Teenagers are in the high-risk group. According to U.S. Department of Transportation 2015 statistics, people between the ages of 16 and 24 represented only 12% of the licensed drivers in our country. That same group comprised 42% of drivers in all the fatal alcohol-related crashes during 2017. When you think about that, two tragic facts are revealed.
First, not all teenagers killed in such accidents are themselves drunk at the time. Often times, they have had nothing to drink at all but are passengers in cars driven by teenagers who have been drinking.
Second, teenagers often are on the road late at night, especially on weekends when most crashes involving alcohol occur. They are targets for cars being driven by other people — adults or teens — who have had too much to drink.
I do not mean to give you a sermon on the evils of alcohol, but I would be remiss if I left you thinking that it would be OK to drink beer because you think beer is better and safer to drink than wine or hard liquor. It isn't!
Finally, in case you are not aware of it, the minimum drinking age is 21 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Those who are under the age of 21 and consume alcohol are breaking the law, including you. Please cut back entirely for your safety and for the safety of those around you.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.