Alcohol continues to be the substance most frequently abused by youth, and it is the leading cause of fatal injury for people under 21. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 5,000 youth die every year from an alcohol-related cause. The number of kids who are drinking continues to climb as does the amount of alcohol they are consuming.
Kids Are Drinking At Younger Ages
The annual Monitoring the Future survey reveals that the nation’s youth are starting to drink at a younger and younger age. Data from the survey shows that nearly one-half of eighth grade students have experimented with alcohol. As the students get older, the statistics become increasingly worrisome. Two-thirds of high school sophomores and three-fourths of high school seniors are drinking.
Kids Are Drinking Greater Amounts Of Alcohol
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that these young people don’t merely sample alcohol, they typically out-drink their adult counterparts. Kids tend to drink less often than adults, but in greater quantities. Youth who drink often binge (four or more drinks per occasion) an average of five times per month compared to adults who more typically consume two or three beverages around nine times per month.
Alcohol-Related Risks For Youth
Drinking is associated with negative outcomes at every age. Youth who start drinking in middle school or high school can expect to face greater chances of the following:
- Social difficulties
- Lowered academic performance
- Increased ill health
- Greater risk of sexual assault
- Trouble with memory
- Higher chance of being involved in a vehicular accident or being harmed through injury (13 percent of drinking youth report being involved in physical altercations after drinking)
- An increased suicide risk (9 percent report attempts)
- Possible interruptions in normal brain development
The younger the child begins drinking, the greater the risks they face. Kids who start drinking before 13 years face a nine times higher chance of regular binge drinking. Youth who binge raise their chances of also being involved in other high-risk behaviors. Surveys show that high school youth who’ve binged during the past month were more likely than non-drinking youth to smoke marijuana (73 percent), have multiple sex partners (31 percent), use cocaine (26 percent), or carry a handgun (22 percent).
Risk Factors For Drinking
Although all U.S. children grow up in the same alcohol-saturated culture, some kids have risk factors that make it more likely they will become involved with alcohol. Studies show that children with alcoholic parents are four to 10 times more apt to develop an alcohol use disorder. Lack of social support, early behavior problems and alcohol availability are all linked to early alcohol abuse.
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