Study: Many teens get alcohol from adults

June 26, 2008 3:17:07 PM PDT
You may not be surprised that more than half of the country's teenagers drink alcohol. But you maybe surprised by how they obtained it. The substance abuse and mental health services administration released the results a nationwide survey on teen drinking Thursday. The study revealed that millions of teenagers obtain alcohol at no cost from their parents or other adults.

People who deal with the ill effects of youth drinking say they're not surprised by the findings. They were part of a huge four-year study backed by the resources of the federal government.

Still, it is somewhat bracing to hear that in the last year of the survey, 2006, the free alcohol recipients said they were provided with their stash in the last 30 days.

"We want to send a wake-up call to parents that the use of alcohol by teens involves risk. These risks are not just related to binge drinking or drinking and driving," said Rear Adm. Steven K. Galson, acting surgeon general.

Young Americans are getting booze wherever they can -- from home, friends, older siblings and especially from parents who often suggest supervised drinking is part of protecting children

"That's a frightening statement from my point of view, because in our society, we know that kids experiment with drugs. That will always be the case. But to call it a rite of passage is troublesome because it leads to a normalization of this type of behavior," said Dr. Gregory Teas, psychiatrist/addictionologist.

Dr. Teas, chief of chemical dependency programs at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, where 137 beds are filled at any time with mostly young people battling substance abuse problems, says the human brain is developing rapidly until the age of 23, and drinking, especially binge drinking, is extraordinarily harmful

"These kids who get -- particularly involved with binge drinking have a much higher rate of dropout from school, they can have complications with other types of psychiatric and medical problems, and the long-term outcome is not particularly good," Teas said.

That is a message that Mothers Against Drunk Driving wants contrasted with time-challenged parents who think the best way for them to relate to adolescents is to befriend them.

"They want not merely to be a parent, but even more importantly they want to trump the parent role with the friend role, the buddy role, and the two don't connect. You can be a parent and you can be a buddy, you ain't gonna be both," said David Malhan, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

"Kids who drink before age 15 are five times more likely to have alcohol problems when they're adults," according to a government-sponsored public service announcement.

That may be the key statistic coming out of this landmark study -- that kids experimenting at the age of 15 -- not 14, not 13, but on the cusp of young adulthood -- are at such risk. And the risk does not end there. As Dr. Teas spoke about them, those binge drinkers, especially the ones in college, are actually the kids who are most likely to end up with alcohol problems later in life.


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