Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have consumed alcoholic beverages for purposes of religious ceremony, celebration, medicinal therapy, and recreation. Unfortunately, problem drinking also has been recognized and reported for thousands of years.1 There is continuing debate as to whether alcohol is a beverage or a drug and whether its use is always hazardous or is, at times, beneficial to physical and/or psychologic health. There is even greater debate as to whether youth should be restricted from all use of alcohol or encouraged to develop safe and responsible drinking patterns through progressive controlled exposure.
ALCOHOL USE AMONG YOUTH
Alcohol is the drug most often abused by the largest number of children and adolescents. More than 90% have tried alcohol at least once before graduation from high school. In 1984, two thirds of senior high school students admitted to using alcohol at least once a month. Nearly 50% of male high school seniors and 30% of female seniors reported drinking excessively at least once every 2 weeks. One in 20 high school seniors reported drinking daily. Despite efforts to address this problem, there has been no significant change in these statistics for the past decade according to several national surveys. 2,3 Alcohol use by school drop-outs has not been recorded but is suspected to be even greater.
Exposure to alcohol frequently occurs before or during early adolescence. Of high school students who have used alcohol, 10% had their first drink by grade 6, 30% by grade 8, and 55% by grade 9 according to one national survey.3
- Copyright © 1987 by the American Academy of Pediatrics