Alcohol: Kids' Drug Of Choice 

Alcohol: Kids' Drug Of Choice 
Posted by FoM on May 26, 2000 at 21:36:15 PT
By Mathea Falco
Source: Washington Post
Recent tragedies such as the death of a 20-year-old Georgetown student following a drunken fight and other tales of alcohol-related arrests and accidents have opened many parents' eyes to the problem of binge drinking on college campuses. But too many parents fail to realize that excessive drinking often begins much earlier.
Alcohol is the drug of choice among high school and middle school students today. And while one-third of high school students say they have binged on alcohol in the past month, a Peter Hart poll found that just 3 percent of high school students' parents think their teens have done so. This awareness gap has serious consequences for today's youth. Alcohol, especially among youth, is taking a real toll.Parents are not alone in underestimating the problem of teen drinking. Teen drinking costs more than $58 billion annually, including costs from traffic accidents, violent crime, suicide attempts and treatment. Yet the federal government has invested little in the problem and has no comprehensive strategy to address alcohol-related problems. One of the government's largest drug prevention initiatives--the Office of National Drug Control Policy's anti-drug media campaign--is aimed at preventing illicit drug use among young people. But no comparable program exists for the much larger problem of underage drinking.We can do better. We owe it to our children.According to a recent Drug Strategies report, "Millennium Hangover," regular drinking among teens surpasses regular use of all illicit drugs combined. And teens are getting drunk more often than in the past. In 1998, one in three high school seniors reported being drunk in the preceding month--up 13 percent since 1993.When teens begin drinking at an early age, they greatly increase their risk for serious alcohol problems later in life. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, teens who drink before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.And underage drinkers are much more likely to participate in other risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex and other drug use. The more teens drink, the more likely they are to drink and drive, or to ride in a car where the driver has been drinking. Young drinkers also smoke more often than those who do not drink.Until parents, teachers and policymakers face up to the realities of underage drinking, kids will fail to get the message about the dangers of alcohol. Despite the higher number of accidents and deaths associated with alcohol use, teens believe that alcohol is less dangerous than other drugs. Almost half of teenagers view illicit drugs as the biggest problem facing their generation, while less than 10 percent cite alcohol.And it is far too easy for teens to get alcohol. Nearly 90 percent of 10th-graders say that alcohol is easy to get, whether from older friends and siblings, a parent's liquor cabinet, licensed alcohol outlets or even over the Internet.Americans have long focused on the devastating effects of illicit drugs on this country's health and safety. Underage drinking rarely provokes similar concern. That needs to change. It is time that the prevention of teen drinking becomes as high a national priority as preventing teen smoking and other drug use.Parents must begin much earlier to talk with their children about the dangers of drinking. Enforcement of the minimum drinking age must improve. And the federal government must finally stare down the alcohol lobby and make a significant investment in preventing underage drinking.The drinking habits teenagers form in high school, and sometimes earlier, are sure to get worse when students begin to enjoy the freedom of a college campus. In fact, a recent Harvard School of Public Health study found that despite years of aggressive prevention efforts, frequent heavy drinking among college students is on the rise. The study's findings and the constant stream of disasters that result from teen alcohol abuse should be a wake-up call for parents and policymakers. It's time to get serious.The writer is president of Drug Strategies, a nonprofit research institute, and was assistant secretary of state for international narcotics matters from 1977 to 1981. Drug Strategies , May 27, 2000 ; A27  2000 The Washington Post Company CannabisNews Articles On Alcohol Related Items:
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Comment #3 posted by steve1 on May 28, 2000 at 14:05:31 PT
put the beer in the liquor stores 
Put the beer in the liquor stores and sell marijuna there as well. Have bouncers checking for id at the front of the store. There, problem solved. hehe
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Comment #2 posted by MikeEEEEE on May 27, 2000 at 06:28:17 PT
Big Difference
Alcohol makes people act aggressive. Marijuana is mellow, people are not likely to get into fights with it.
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Comment #1 posted by Johnboy on May 27, 2000 at 00:09:54 PT
What do you expect?
The domestic beer market is worth about 60 Billion dollars a year.Its safe to assume that these problems are going to get worse.
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