Booze binges can be hazardous to anyone's health, but they are especially alarming among teen-agers.
Thirty-one percent of high school students say they engage in the activity at least once a month, according to a new report by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Binge drinking is typically considered as four consecutive drinks by a female and five by a male.
But binge drinking is only one troubling aspect. Other findings include:
Eighty-one percent of high school students have tried alcohol compared to 70 percent who have smoked cigarettes and 47 percent who have tried marijuana.
Ninth-grade girls were just as likely to be drinkers as ninth-grade boys.
Teens who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol than people who begin drinking at age 21.
About 87 percent of adults who drink consumed their first drink before age 21.
The report also said that teens who experiment with alcohol tend to continue using it. Among high school seniors who had tried booze, 91.3 percent continued to drink in the 12th grade.
Teen-agers who drink are more likely to drop out of school, engage in sexual activity, be violent and commit crimes. Some youths die from binge drinking, driving drunk or related problems.
Despite all the woes associated with teens and drinking, it isn't hard to figure out why teens do it. Curiosity, stress and peer pressure are among the factors. But so are the mixed messages that society sends about drinking.
Ads portraying drinking as hip, sexy and fun are everywhere. Youths find them at the flick of a television channel, the turn of a magazine page, or the passing of a billboard while riding or walking home from school.
Undoubtedly, the latest report will generate calls for curbs on advertising, more teen awareness programs and even tougher laws to hold adults responsible for teen drinking under some circumstances.
Florida is already among a handful of states that makes property owners liable for underage drinking parties on their land. Adults in Jacksonville, in some cases, can face an additional fine and community service work if underage drinking is happening on their property.
But perhaps the best remedy for teen-age drinking is involved parents who talk about the perils of alcohol with their children and then keep tabs on their teens' activities and acquaintances.
That remedy obviously isn't being used enough.
--Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville
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