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Alcohol Problems More Likely For Young Drinkers

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Alcohol problems more likely for young drinkers Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times as likely to develop alcohol dependence, or alcoholism, than those who began at 21, according to a report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health. Alcohol abuse, described as a maladaptive drinking pattern that repeatedly causes life problems, was more than twice as likely to occur for those who began drinking before 15 than for those who began at 21, according to the report. The report, released Jan. 14, was based on an NIAAA-sponsored sample of nearly 43,000 interviews in 1992. Of those who began drinking before 15, more than 40 percent were classified as alcohol-dependent at some time in their lives, the study found. That finding contrasted with 24.5 percent for those who began drinking at 17 and about 10 percent for those who began drinking at 21 or 22. The report found the risk for alcohol dependence decreased by 14 percent for each year of increase in the onset of drinking. Meanwhile, the risk for alcohol abuse in a lifetime decreased by 8 percent with each increasing year in the onset of drinking. For those who were 14 when they began drinking, 13.8 percent developed alcohol abuse, contrasted with 2.5 percent for those who began drinking at 25 or older. The report “adds new evidence about the need to regard underage drinking as the serious problem it is,” said Donna Shalala, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, of which NIH is a division. “Our prevention agencies, communities, businesses (especially the alcohol beverage industry), schools and parents need to act together and to tell our young people unequivocally and with one voice that underage drinking is dangerous and wrong.” Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said the solution to the problem includes abstinence by adults, not just young people. “I agree with Ms. Shalala’s assessment of the problem and of the need for us to act quickly and in a comprehensive manner in addressing youth drinking,” said Duke, the ERLC’s director of denominational relations and its specialist on alcohol issues. “In addition, I would point out that this report is just one more indication of the selfishness of our society.

It is heartbreaking to consider that a large segment of the adult population is unwilling to eliminate an activity from their lifestyle that is encouraging millions of our children to risk their lives and futures. These children could not even obtain alcohol if their parents or adult acquaintances did not make it so accessible. It is time for adults to acknowledge that children do as we do, not as we say. Until then, we will continue to wring our hands over the plight of our children as we persist in our own hypocrisy.” On Capitol Hill, Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D.-Mass., has introduced a nonbinding resolution in the House of Representatives urging college and university presidents to adopt guidelines intended to reduce heavy drinking by students. The Collegiate Initiative to Reduce Binge Drinking, H.R. 321, calls for each president to appoint a task force consisting of administrators, faculty and students to address the problem; enforce a “zero-tolerance” policy for the unlawful consumption of alcohol; and eliminate alcohol-related sponsorship of on-campus activities. Representatives may demonstrate their support by signing onto the resolution. There will be no formal vote. About 44 percent of college students qualify as binge drinkers, according to the resolution.

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