Parents have varying beliefs when it comes to the moral aspect of underage drinking. Some remember taking their first sips of wine at a young age and believe experimentation is a harmless rite of passage. Other parents may believe in abstinence out of respect for the law or because of religious beliefs. Regardless of where you stand on the moral aspect, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety considers it a serious problem.
The NC DPS remains committed to bringing an end to youths experimenting with alcohol. However, critics say that this often leads to criminalizing the act instead of offering proper guidance.
The NC DPS reports that alcohol use among minors correlates with problematic behaviors in school. Examples include truancy, fighting, drug use and aggression. It also identifies alcohol as a major cause of unwanted sexual advances and unprotected sexual activities among minors. All of these factors may create a cycle that becomes difficult to break.
North Carolina treats underage drinking as a misdemeanor, but judges decide how to proceed with sentencing. Its webpage states that even at 19 or 20 years old, young adults may lose their driver’s licenses if caught drinking underage. Underage drinkers may also need to pay several hundred dollars in fees and complete community service.
At the time of writing this article, the webpage included no information about rehabilitation or other treatment options for affected individuals. This seems like a crucial oversight that North Carolina may need to resolve if it truly intends to break the cycles of poverty, teen pregnancy, substance abuse and domestic violence that often creates early alcohol experimentation and results from it.