THURSDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Some 709,000 youngsters
aged 12 to 14 in the United States are drinking beer, liquor and
other alcoholic beverages, a new federal study found.
And the surprise is that many of these underage drinkers aren't
just getting a friend to buy a six pack for them or smuggling
alcohol out of the family liquor cabinet. Some are getting the
alcohol directly from a parent, guardian or another adult
In the past month alone, more than 200,000 kids were given
alcohol by a parent or other adult family member, according to a
report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
That's not counting the youngsters who are drinking on the
"About 5.9 percent of 12- to 14-year-olds have used alcohol in the past month," said Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. "That's a pretty large number."
"And almost all of these kids got that alcohol for free," he said.
In fact, about 45 percent got alcohol from a parent or other
family member or they took it from their home without permission,
About 15 percent of these kids just took the liquor, but 15.7
percent got it directly from that parent or guardian and another 14
percent got it from another relative, he said.
Why parents are giving their kids alcohol isn't clear, Delany
said. "Anecdotally, parents say, 'Well, at least they are drinking
at home and not on the street, or at least they are not smoking
marijuana' -- all kind of silly things," he said.
"If you want to have a big impact on preventing problems with youth alcohol use, it starts at home," he said. "This is a wholly preventable behavior."
Delany suggests locking up all the liquor at home and never
giving any to young children.
Although some parents may not realize it, being a regular
drinker as a teen can have serious consequences in adulthood,
"If you drink alcohol before the age of 15 you are about five times more likely to experience a serious problem with alcohol or other drug use at or after the age of 21," he explained. "That's why so many prevention programs are trying to delay kids from using alcohol, because the older you are [when you start drinking], the more judgment you have, and the less likely you are to develop problems later in life."
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism, approximately 5,000 youngsters and teens under the age
of 21 die each year as a result of underage drinking, including
deaths from falls, burns and drowning. Frequent binge drinkers who
are underage are also more likely to get D's and F's in school and
to engage in risky sexual and drug-taking behavior.
"We have to start talking to our kids about this issue. Talk to them all the time -- it's not a onetime discussion," Delany added.
Delany noted the data on very young drinkers came from the 2006
to 2009 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, which involved
responses from more than 44,000 respondents aged 12 to 14. The
sample was from across the country and included families from a
variety of socioeconomic groups.
Dr. Gwen Wurm, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at
the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said, "This is
something we have known: kids do get their alcohol at home."
"As parents we need to guide our children into the kind of appropriate choices they can be making," she said.
Being open and honest about what alcohol is and its dangers to
the developing brain should be an important part of the discussion,
Wurm said. In addition, she said, parents need to include alcohol
as part of the discussion about drugs and sex.
Another expert, David Jernigan, an associate professor at the
Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University,
places much of the blame for making drinking "cool" to kids on the
"Youth exposure to alcohol advertising on television increased 71 percent between 2001 and 2009," he said. Kids are seeing about one advertisement for alcohol a day. "That's a great thing [if the ads are about] vitamins, but not so great for alcohol."
Jernigan thinks alcohol advertising should be restricted to
venues where 12- to 20-year-olds make up only a small percentage of
the viewing audience.
Parents need to play a lead role in preventing their kids from
drinking, "but frankly, they could use a little more help from the
alcohol industry," he said.
For more information on underage drinking, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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