Averages don’t mean much.
If 25% of teens suck down four beers a day, and the other 75% drink none, then the “average” teenager drinks one beer a day. This is obviously ridiculous. In this example, one out of four kids would be drinking twice as much as medical science recommends for adult males, yet the “statistic” indicates that there are no severe problems with teen drinking. (Even one beer a day isn’t good. See #6, below.)
Underage drinkers account for 25 percent of the alcohol consumed in the United States, according to a report by the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare. It goes on to say that nearly 1/3 of high school students report binge drinking at least once a month.
According to a 2006 study by the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking; this includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 as a result of homicides, 300 from suicide, as well as hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings“.
Here are some other bits of information:
- About 87 percent of adults who drink had their first drink before age 21.
- About 81 percent of high school students have consumed alcohol, compared with 70 percent who have smoked cigarettes and 47 percent who have used marijuana.
- The gender gap for drinking is disappearing. Female ninth-graders were just as likely to be drinkers as male ninth-graders.
- Most teens who experiment with alcohol continue using it. Among high school seniors who had tried alcohol, 91.3 percent still were drinking in the 12th grade.
- Those who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who begin drinking at age 21.
- Ingestion of alcohol during childhood and the teen years interferes with the formation of connections within the brain, which are not complete until the early 20’s. This can — and often does — result in learning challenges, cognitive deficits, and always affects normal emotional development.
Pay no attention to averages, folks. Look for the hard truth in the hard numbers.