PrintPDFCite.ALCOHOL IS A DRUG. As such, it has the power to alter both the mind and body, and it is also potentially addictive. While most adults know the basic facts about alcohol and some of the inherent dangers of drinking, many of America’s teens do not.
A 1996 report released by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests that most teens, for example, do not understand the concept of alcohol content and do not know the relative strengths of different alcoholic beverages. Fully 80 percent of teens do not know that a twelveounce can of beer has the same amount of alcohol as a shot of whiskey. A third of the teens surveyed also do not understand the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
Estimates show that at least 8 million American teenagers consume alcohol every week and that almost half a million go on weekly drinking binges, drinking for the sole purpose of getting drunk. Forty percent of tenth graders and nearly 20 percent of eighth graders, for example, reported having been drunk in 1996.
Education is key to preventing teen alcoholism
Perhaps if teens and preteens understood the effects of alcohol, the influences that lead to drinking, and the potential for social drinking to turn into alcoholism, many would not be the regular drinkers they are today. Perhaps if teens learned the skills for coping with emotional problems, the number one reason given by teens for their alco- hol abuse, many would not take their first drinks before entering high school.
When teens drink, they not only put themselves at risk for abuse but also increase their chances of becoming involved in crimes, suicides, and violent encounters with others. They are also more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. When they drink and drive, they risk adding to alcohol-related automobile fatality statistics. The number one killer of young people, alcohol-related traffic accidents, killed 2,222 sixteen- to twenty-year-olds in 1994.
While teen alcohol use in the...