WEST JORDAN, Utah -- Utah has some of the strictest alcohol laws in the country, but according to a new report, Utah teens who drink tend to engage in binge drinking more than their peers in other states.
The Underage Drinking in Utah report was compiled with the help of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and released by the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. According to the experts, consuming five or more drinks in a short period of time constitutes binge drinking.
For one mother from West Jordan, the study highlights a problem she herself tragically encountered.
“Something good has to come from Braxton’s death,” said Bobbi Anderson, whose 16-year-old son died after a night of binge drinking in 2011. “This is what happened from one time.”
On February 5, 2011, Braxton left to meet up with some friends, agreeing that his mother would pick him up at 10:00 p.m. However, when texts and phone calls went unanswered, Anderson and her husband grew worried.
“It was really odd for him to be late,” Anderson said. “He had never been late. He was just never like that.”
They spent the night driving around looking for him, but it wasn’t until a friend returned Anderson’s phone call the next morning that she found him.
“He ended up calling me about ten minutes later and said Braxton was laying there, that he had never left, that he was not breathing,” she said.
Braxton was found lifeless on a field, where just hours earlier he and a group of friends had been drinking, heavily. Anderson said some of the boys he was with didn’t even recall how they made it home.
“They were drinking energy drinks with vodka,” Anderson said. “Braxton had basically 8 ounces of alcohol in him. That’s what killed him. Drinking as much as you can as fast as you can.”
It underscores the dangers found in the study, which shows that compared to national averages, fewer Utah teens drink alcohol, but those who do drink admitted to drinking more. Nationally, about 55 percent of 12th graders who consume alcohol binge drink, compared to 72 percent of Utah high school seniors who drink. Among 10th graders the national average is 54 percent, and in Utah it’s 73 percent.
“They want to have that buzz, and they want to feel it immediately, so they consume more. And our bodies, at that age, don’t tell us to stop like they do when we’re adults because our brains are not fully formed,” said Susannah Burt, Program Manager for the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.
The findings only underscore the problem Anderson has set out to diminish. She now travels the state to give lectures at town halls and schools, sharing Braxton’s story.
“This can happen to any kid in any family,” Anderson said. “If I can help one person to not have to do this, then that’s what my goal is.”