How high is the rate of underage drinking?
A new report urges pediatricians and parents to discuss the dangers of alcohol use with their children and young patients.
More than 20 percent of students admitted they’ve had more than just a few sips of alcohol by the age of 13, according to the study by the American Academy of Pediatrics entitled “Binge Drinking.” In 2014, one in nine eighth-graders and half of 12th-graders reported having been drunk at least once in their lives.
Drinking alcohol is associated with numerous adverse outcomes in young drinkers, and binge drinking significantly increases these risks. Approximately 80 percent of adolescents said their parents are the biggest influence on their decision to drink or not.
“Your kids are very observant and usually at an age that is sooner than you realize,” says Dr. Aaron Traeger, Advocate Medical Group pediatrician at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Whether you are a binge drinker, only drink for special occasions or have a drink when you get home from a hard day of work, your kids will pick up on that pattern and will develop an opinion on alcohol.”
Prevention plays a more important role than later intervention. According to the report, children start to think positively about alcohol between 9 and 13 years old. Therefore, it is important for parents to begin talking with their children about alcohol as early as age 9.
“What they see in advertising, their friends and their friends’ families will paint a picture that they will likely want to emulate,” says Dr. Traeger.
The pediatrician finds that some parents will abstain from alcohol in front of their kids thinking that this will solve the problem. However, he says that parents cannot simply abstain from alcohol and not have a discussion about the dangers, assuming that they will follow suit.
“From a very early age you can point out what is happening around you in the ‘real world’ and what the consequences are if things are taken too far,” he says.
All pediatricians can also play a role in education and prevention.
“Given their lack of experience with alcohol and smaller bodies, children and adolescents can have serious consequences – including death – with their first episode of binge drinking,” said Dr. Loren Siqueria, pediatrician and co-author of the clinical report, in a news release. “Because alcohol use is so common, it is necessary for pediatricians to screen every adolescent for alcohol use during office visits, and to help identify youth at risk for alcohol-related problems.”
About the Author
Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.