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More than 5 million high schoolers binge drink at least once a month; according to Teen Tipplers: America's Underage Drinking Epidemic, a new report released today by CASAColumbia at Columbia University (CASA). The 145-page report, the result of two years of research and analysis, also found that the gender gap in alcohol consumption that for generations separated girls and boys has disappeared among younger teens: male and female ninth graders are just as likely to drink (40% vs. 41%) and to binge drink (22% vs. 20%).
"Underage drinking has reached epidemic proportions in America," says Joseph A. Califano Jr., CASA President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. "Alcohol damages the young brain, interferes with mental and social development and interrupts academic progress. Alcohol is the fatal attraction for many teens, a major factor in the three leading causes of teen death - accidents, homicide and suicide."
The report includes a landmark survey of 900 adults which reveals that Americans overwhelmingly support cracking down on underage drinking:
"Alcohol is far and away the top drug of abuse for American kids" says Susan Foster, CASA Vice-President and Director of Policy Research and Analysis. "The college binge drinking problem starts with children and teens, and that's where our prevention and education efforts must be focused."
Key Findings About Underage Drinking
Underage drinkers are a critical segment of the alcohol beverage market. Since most heavy and problem drinkers begin drinking before they reach age 21, underage drinking is key to the profitability of the alcohol industry.
Teens have easy access to alcohol. Parents are too often unwitting co-conspirators who see underage drinking and occasional bingeing as a rite of passage, rather than a deadly round of Russian roulette.
The pervasive influence of the entertainment industry has glamorized and sexualized alcohol and rarely shows the ill effects of abuse.
A CASA Checklist for Parents:
Recommendations for Policymakers, Educators and Prevention Experts:
"This report is a clarion call for a national mobilization to curb underage drinking," says Califano. "It sets the stage for parents, law enforcement, legislators, the entertainment industry and the alcohol industry to save millions of teens from destroying their lives through alcohol abuse."
*CASAColumbia at Columbia University is neither affiliated with, nor sponsored by, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (also known as "CASA") or any of its member organizations with the name of "CASA."