underage drinking

Underage Females Now Consuming Alcohol Before Males

Breaking down misconceptions of alcohol use is an important factor in preventing future alcohol abuse problems. Underage drinking is societal problem that parents, law enforcement, healthcare providers and government officials have been battling for decades.

New research shows that teenage girls are now drinking earlier than teenage boys. This is the first time that the sexes have made this switch and it seems that adults are not far behind. Adult women are closing the gap with adult males in drinking frequency and amount.

According to researchers, underage drinking for females can be traced to a few different factors. Some experts are pointing their fingers at alcohol advertisers. There is an increase in fruity, sweet-tasting drinks available to consumers and teenage girls tend to gravitate towards these types of beverages. Additionally, drinking has become more accepted in society. In the past, males have consumed more and earlier in life, while girls stayed away from alcohol until they were older. Because of this, many programs and initiatives to curb underage drinking are geared towards boys instead of girls.

Testing and research measures that gauge drinking trends have also changed. Researchers have gotten more sophisticated with their testing questions and study groups. This has allowed the medical community to spot this change among teenagers.

“We found that over that period of time, differences in measures such as current drinking, number of drinking days per month, reaching criteria for an alcohol use disorder and driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year, al narrowed for females and males,” explained Aaron White, the study author and senior scientific advisor to the director of the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Since teenage drinking is more likely to lead to an adult drinking problem, it is imperative that stronger and more effective programs are developed to curb underage alcohol abuse. Additionally, equal attention should be given to educating both males and females, as indicated in the study that appeared in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

When to Discuss Alcohol with Kids

New research shows that parents and educators should be discussing the dangers of alcohol much earlier than many people previously expected. Explaining why children should not consume alcohol, and how doing so can harm them, needs to be done between the ages of 9 and 13. This is likely a much different approach regarding underage drinking prevention than what most parents and schools have been doing. The tendency to wait until children are older to discuss alcohol and drugs is proving to be too late.

“Surveys indicate that children start to think positively about alcohol between ages 9 and 13 years. The more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, and if they are already drinking, this exposure leads them to drink more. Therefore, it is very important to start talking to children about the dangers of drinking as early as 9 years of age,” the report discussed.

Experts agree that it is not just the parent’s responsibility to begin educating their children about the dangers of alcohol. Physicians and health care providers should begin discussing the issue with children and their parents as well. Studies show that by the time children reach the age of 13, 21% have already tried more than a sip of alcohol. This number skyrockets by the time children graduate high school. Almost 80% of high school graduates have drunk more than a sip of alcohol.

Further indication that parental involvement is vital when it comes to the decision of whether or not to consume alcohol is that most children agreed that their parents were the biggest influencers on drinking. Kids whose parents discussed the dangers of alcohol abuse and experimentation were less likely to become heavy drinkers while in college. This is particularly vital because college students are more likely to engage in binge drinking. Binge drinking occurs when a person consumes large quantities of alcohol in a short amount of time. There are many dangers to binge drinking, such as alcohol poisoning, making poor decisions regarding driving and sex and the risk of developing an alcohol addiction.

Parents Held Responsible for Teen Drinking

In order to combat the underage drinking problem, many counties have enacted social hosting laws. These laws hold accountable anyone who is hosting a party where underage drinking is occurring. Different states and counties have variances in these laws, but all center on targeting the person who is supplying the alcohol and/or allowing underage drinking to occur.

Underage drinking has long been a problem, especially during high school. Maturity levels have a lot to do with the inability to drink moderately, which was a contributing factor when the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21 many years ago. Social host laws make it illegal to host parties where people under the age of 21 are consuming alcohol, and police note that in areas where this law is in effect, there are less incidents of underage drinking parties.

Bettina Friese with the Prevention Research Center in Okland has been researching the underage drinking problem in our country and has found that most teens receive multiple texts in a weekend regarding underage drinking parties. Additionally, Friese conducted a survey of 1,100 teenagers and found that 39 percent of them hosted parties where alcohol was involved. The survey also indicated that 70 percent of the teenagers surveyed said that their parents have known that they were at parties where drinking was involved.

It seems that parents are most concerned with drinking and driving. Most parents feel that it is safer for teenagers to drink under the supervision of an adult, rather than at someone else’s home where there is no adult present. While it may be true that adult supervision could be better, this train of thought is a bit short-sighted due to the overall legality of the consumption as well as the message of approval that sends to young people.

This mindset is also shared by law enforcement, and was the catalyst behind enacting the social host law. Ignoring some parent’s excuses that their child is ok to drink under their supervision, police agencies and lawmakers have begun to crack down on parents who allow underage drinking in their home. In states like California, if the parent is unaware that underage drinking is occurring in their home, the child will receive the fine.

“We found that cities with more stringent and enforceable social host laws had lower levels of drinking at parties among teenagers compared to cities with less stringent laws, or without any kind of social host law,” explained M.J. Paschall, a researcher who has been looking into the effectiveness of these types of laws throughout the country.

Perhaps fining parents will continue to help reduce underage drinking problems in more areas around the country.

Communities With Strong Social Hosting Laws Linked to Less Underage Drinking

Teens who live in communities with strict social hosting laws are less likely to drink at parties, says a new study in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Social hosting laws hold adults responsible for any underage drinkers partaking on their property.

Fifty Californian communities were investigated, half having existing social hosting laws. Communities with strong social hosting laws were identified as the towns where the law is aimed at underage drinking, where penalties and fines are quickly administered, and the property owners are held accountable for any underage drinking – even if they were unaware of it.

Mallie Paschall, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the Prevention Research Center in Oakland, California, says the preliminary findings are encouraging since most teenagers rely on getting alcohol from social sources, instead of buying it at a store. “In theory, laws aimed at those social sources – the parents or other adults of legal drinking age – should help reduce underage drinking,” Paschall said.

Paschall noted that public knowledge and enforcement of the laws are key. He said that if adults don’t know they can be held accountable, and if police officers and local prosecutors don’t enforce the social hosting laws, then the policies won’t be a deterrent for underage drinking.

Many states and local communities have passed social hosting laws. The details of the laws vary from community to community and from state to state. Research leading up to Paschall’s study produced mixed results on whether or not the social hosting laws prevent teenage drinking.

Future studies will include researchers looking at the rates of teen drinking both before and after social hosting legislation was passed to determine if the policies truly have an impact on deterring underage drinking. Paschall also stated that it is important to study whether or not social hosting legislation reduce teen drinking related problems like drunk driving.

High School Remains Tough Against Underage Drinking

Many people are trying to do their part when it comes to preventing underage drinking. It is a growing problem that is affecting our youth all over the country. In fact, alcohol is the most commonly abused drug by teenagers in the United States. While many teenagers do not feel that drinking is very dangerous, they may be surprised to know that 4,300 of their peers die every year from alcohol-related causes. To combat these alarming statistics, some high schools are enforcing strict abstinence policies.

One school in Illinois, Glenbard High School, pledged to suspend anyone caught attending a party where alcohol is being served. So far the school has suspended thirty student athletes after they attended a party where alcohol was present. The rule is so strict that even if the teens didn’t consume alcohol themselves, they were still suspended because they were at a party with alcohol. Some parents and many of the students are upset with this new policy.

On Monday, the school board heard from many parents and students that wanted the rule changed. One student suggested that those who did not drink should be allowed at the party because they could help influence students that were drinking to put down their beverages and stop consuming alcohol. The board acknowledged that students who do not drink can be a good influence on their peers, however a party where alcohol is being served is not the place to try to enforce that good influence.

Despite the arguments from students and parents opposed to the new drinking policy, the school remained firm in its decision to punish anyone caught at a party that included alcohol. Alcohol and temptation surrounds every high school student, and sometimes facing a significant punishment is the only thing that prevents them from succumbing to the pressure.

Poll Finds Most Teens Don’t Drink

hsalcoholchartmaddMothers Against Drinking and Driving (MADD) and State Farm Insurance recently teemed up to conduct a survey of high school kids and alcohol consumption. Although only about 700 students were surveyed, more than three quarters of them from around the country said they did not consume alcohol. The numbers were fairly to those for 10th grade students across the country found by the Monitoring The Future Study. However, it is far from what was found for 12th grade students, where 42% of them said they had consumed alcohol within the past 30 days.

In the MADD survey, the top five reasons listed for teens not drinking were:

1. It’s illegal
2. Effect on health
3. Effect on grades
4. Parents don’t approve
5. Don’t want to be like others who drink

The findings for the poll were released to coincide with Red Ribbon Week, also known as national drug prevention week, which is October 23 – 31.