No wonder teens drink. We make it look like such fun.

boozeI am not surprised by the new CDC study that one in four high school students binge drink. As a culture, we have glamorized drinking and made it an essential part of many rituals, from football games to weddings to holiday parties.

I once assumed that drinking was the recourse of teens who were lost, who didn’t have connections to athletics or academics or stable families. But I have since found that drinking is universal in high school; sports stars, drama club presidents and valedictorians all drink. In fact, 81 percent of high school students try alcohol.

A consistent research finding is that parents shrug off underage drinking as part of the teenage landscape. This newspaper is full of stories of parents who allow teens to drink in their home and even buy them the booze. We have accepted the rampant alcohol abuse among our teenagers.

At least Georgia did not end up in the top tiers of binge drinking; we had the  fifth lowest rate. Tennessee had the lowest rate, 6.8 percent, while Wisconsin had the highest, 23.9 percent . (That does not surprise me. I once had to file a story from a remote and very cold corner of Wisconsin. In search of a phone — this was in the days before cell phones or laptops  — I went to a bar that was open at 10 a.m. on a Sunday and packed with patrons.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines binge drinking as having five or more drinks in the span of a few hours.

According to the AJC story:

“Binge drinking increases many health risks, including fatal car crashes, contracting a sexually transmitted disease, dating violence and drug overdoses,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said.

The CDC, which also studied 2009 nationwide telephone surveys of adults,  found:

* From 1993 to 2009, binge drinking decreased among high school boys but stayed the same among high school girls and adults in general.

* People with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more are more likely to binge drink (19.3 percent).

34 comments Add your comment

Eddie Long, The Bishup of Pizza

October 6th, 2010
10:58 am

Thats because it is fun!! Alcohol and drugs remain fun to this day and no amount of money, pleading, asking, telling can stop it. The DEA should be done away with or merged with the ATF.

” In fact, 81 percent of high school students try alcohol.”

Yea so? Didnt we all try drinking and drugs when we were in high school? Today parent, if they could be called that, just wanna spoil everything for the generations behind them because as we know those damn 60’s hippies know everything.

Booklover

October 6th, 2010
12:05 pm

There is a very, very significant difference between dangerous, chronic binge drinking and enjoying a drink or a few occasionally. This alarmist outcry over celebratory drinking is obnoxious. We have bigger problems, truly.

Clearly binge drinking isn’t always even a stumbling block to success, since people with higher incomes tend to binge drink more!

My siblings and I were some of those teens with parents who bought us drinks—only us, never our friends–and only for special occasions. In fact, in that horrible drunken state of Wisconsin, it is perfectly legal for parents to buy their children a drink at the bar, regardless of age. This is a reflection of the German culture of the state; it’s really obnoxious that other people, particularly southerners, cannot respect my culture. Amazingly, all three of we siblings graduated from college on time (no failing out because we couldn’t control our alcohol consumption!) and all three hold professional jobs.

The ironic thing is, Wisconsin has a much better education system and a much less corrupt state government. We have bigger problems here in Georgia!

Also, you should consider the definition of “binge drinking”: some sources say three drinks is binge drinking for a woman. Personally, I find that definition inaccurate. Maybe it’s my years and years of drinking and my upper-Midwest upbringing, but I can sometimes have three drinks and not even be very buzzed, let alone inebriated.

And Maureen, those patrons in the bar at 10 am on a Sunday? Was it during football season? In Wisconsin, the only thing worshipped more than beer is the Packers. Football games begin at noon on Sundays in the central time zone. These people were pre-partying! Or is that only acceptable when it’s Saturday and people are tailgating in Athens? (Yes, I guess that proves your point. Adults are having too much responsible, adult fun!)

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kimberly jones, david brockman and MONISE SEWARD, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: No wonder teens drink. We make it look like such fun. http://bit.ly/d4zSJg [...]

lala

October 6th, 2010
12:31 pm

David Sims

October 6th, 2010
12:41 pm

I didn’t drink at all until I was in college. I binged a few times then, and learned my lesson about hangovers and suffering grades. AFROTC encouraged cadets to drink at formal social events, but only to the point they could handle their alcohol load while managing the expected superlative social graces without showing the slightest loss of judgment or muscular coordination. (It was supposed to be educational, somehow.)

After college, I seldom drank at all. Later on, in my 40s, I began taking brandy in doses of 50 to 60 milliliters, three or four times per week, as a means of preventing high blood pressure. The other days of the week, I’d take an aspirin for the same reason. Too many pork chops got me the high blood pressure anyway, so now I’m on BP pills, fish oil, reduced fat/salt diet. I still drink brandy, but now it’s a sleeping aid. My dose is still 50 to 60 milliliters, right before bed.

Dr. Tim

October 6th, 2010
12:42 pm

Less easy to be blase about this when you see kids killed or maimed in highway accidents, as I have seen in my years as a high school educator. Less easy to be blase when you see sixteen year olds so addicted to alcohol that they cannot make it to school more than a day or two a week. Less easy to be blase when you see the incidence of teenage suicide, and correlate the numbers to alcohol and drug abuse, not to mention the abuse that many teens suffer from alcohol and drug addicted parents. We are an “addicted” society, addicted to our anti-depressants, addicted to our oxycontin, addicted to our sleep aids, addicted to our OTC remedies. Easy to be blase, as long as it’s not you, right?

EnoughAlready

October 6th, 2010
1:03 pm

I think alcohol is to easily available in most homes. I have witnessed parents who allow their kids to drink and do not think anything of it to offer someone else’s child a drink. I truly believe that children should remain in their place, until they are solely responsible for themselves. Once you decide to include them in adult behavior, it’s a little hard to put them back into their place. How do you punish an adult?

David Sims is a racist so...

October 6th, 2010
1:15 pm

Ignore him.

P.S. No one cares about your health problems. May you have a myocardial infarction and spend the remaining days of your worthless life partially paralyzed pooping in an adult sized diaper attended to by 85 IQ level Black certified nursing assistants.

Atlanta Mom

October 6th, 2010
1:39 pm

I must say, based on my experience, having had at least one student in HS for the past 7 years, I am pleasantly surprised that the binge rate is only 6.8%
In the entire seven years I had only one parent call to see if an adult would be in the home when my children had kids over. I had the very distinct feeling that kids liked coming to my home because they knew that drinking was not tolerated. My home was a safe place to come. I think a lot of kids want that but certainly would never admit it.

Pluto

October 6th, 2010
1:53 pm

For some reason I was summoned to my principals office to be lectured on high school student drinking at school sponsored functions which I rarely attend. Anyway, while attending this collection of teachers and admins, I learned that there are two types of high school drinkers; the premeditated drinker and the spontaneous drinker. If caught hammered at sponsored functions, the premeditated boozers get stiffer penalties. I found this interesting.

Booklover

October 6th, 2010
2:04 pm

@EnoughAlready

I do hope that, before your child went off to college, you taught him/her some basic adult responsibilities, right? For example, how to drive, how to do laundry, how to balance a checkbook? S/he learned these things under your care, trying them out at home so that you could monitor behavior, give advice, and provide modelling, right?

Or did you say, “Those are adult activities and you can figure them out when you get to college/are 18 and out of my house!”

Frankly, I see FAR too many parents neglecting their role modeling responsibilities to their children. Parents need to model and teach proper adult behavior, and that in most cultures, that includes responsible drinking. You may not drink in your family, but as David Sims pointed out, exhibting responsible drinking is a big part of many subsets of American culture. Thank goodness my parents modeled responsible drinking and helped me learn how to enjoy alcohol in a moderate fashion. Their lessons have served me well in my life as a Mardi Gras krewe member and military girlfriend, both situations in which responsible social drinking is expected.

PS. Why so much concern over punishment? You sound like someone who doesn’t actually have good discipline over your children. I think a hangover is punishment enough ;)

Atlanta Native

October 6th, 2010
3:04 pm

What is the right of passage into adulthood for Jews? Bar or Bat Mitzvahs. At that time they read from the holy book and are determined to be an adult.

What is the right of passage for most Americans into adulthood? It is not religious. Drinking at age 21. We declare it is more adult than military service or voting or marriage, as it requires a higher age and is more important to the adults, who regulate it heavily. Heck, Obamacare puts off adulthood to 26, but that milestone will not affect them, immediately, though it is just plain wrong.

Why 21? Because Mr. State’s Rights and limited federal government intrusion, Ronald Reagan, withheld federal highway funds to states who would not raise the drinking age to 21. So our federal government has proclaimed that drinking is the most adult-worthy activity, as it requires a higher age than risking death on the battlefield, procreating or participating in the electoral process. The law says that it requires more growing up than getting married, enlisting in the military, deciding who our country’s leaders will be, driving a car on the roads, getting a job, etc.

Since we as a society have proclaimed drinking the ultimate evidence of adulthood by state and federal proclamation, why is anyone surprised that those who can’t wait to grow up, choose to drink to show their adulthood to their peers? Is it so hard to understand?

Rita

October 6th, 2010
3:05 pm

In my experience, it is the kids with tee-totaler parents that have the biggest problems with alcohol abuse.

JD

October 6th, 2010
3:25 pm

Good parenting would prevent some of this. Some kids will try it anyway due to peer pressure. Be a good role model for the kids so they see peopel enjoy beverages in a responsible manner.

sean

October 6th, 2010
3:37 pm

Enter your comments here

EnoughAlready

October 6th, 2010
3:40 pm

Booklover

October 6th, 2010
2:04 pm

First of all my child is in high school and is more responsible for herself than most (cooks, cleans, washes clothing, shops, etc). I believe that parents serve as role models by following the laws and regulations setup to keep us from harming ourselves and others. A good parent explains why we have rules, regulations and consequences for our actions. Falling down sloppy drunk is a consequence that one should not want to learn about first hand. Killing another human being due to our irresponsibility is another consequence that should not be learned by experience. I make it a point to call to my child’s attention when “teenagers” die on our highways due to stupidly and how they gather after the fact to console each other. My child took note at an early age, of the flower memorials, on our main road and I explained to her at the age of seven what they represented. She has experienced three deaths of middle school friends over the last few years and recognizes that mistakes can kill you.

So, if you want to provide alcohol to your BRATS, go ahead; just don’t pull the rest of the student population down.

There are some things you can teach children while at the same time keeping them out of harm’s way. If my daughter chooses to drink, when she goes off to college; I will be very confident that I have provided all the information she needs to make the right decision.

To answer your question regarding punishment: all actions have consequences (some good and some bad). I teach my child about the consequences.

sean

October 6th, 2010
3:44 pm

Gasp… Kids drinking!!!! Run for the hills!!! Lock the liquor cabinet!!!

Please… 1) we make drinking soo taboo in this country. 2) Where do kids practice drinking? With other kids.. Maybe if the parents would just teach responsible drinking to their children there would not be such a problem. EG: NEVER drink and drive.., Dont drink to excess…, have a beer on special occasions WITH parents present.

Steve

October 6th, 2010
4:34 pm

@EnoughAlready:

You lose a lot of credibility when you call someone’s kids BRATS, especially when you don’t know them. Exercise better judgment in the future.

Steve

Dr. Tim

October 6th, 2010
5:18 pm

Most of the comments here reveal a basic imbecility.

catlady

October 6th, 2010
7:35 pm

Perhaps we could provide video footage of people vomiting, falling down, and telling of their rapes at the hands of alcohol. Along with appropriate smells.

Don’t know that that would work, as it “won’t happen to me.”

I was encouraged to drink if I wished at home. Luckily I discovered that I hate the taste. I would have ended up in the gutter otherwise, I think.

Angela

October 6th, 2010
7:40 pm

Wow, typical conservative, Georgia mentality from most. As Booklover states, in most countries and cultures, drinking beer is the norm. Just because its not the norm in By God Georgia doesn’t give one the right to call kids brats because their parents let them drink. It’s also rather “imbecile” to think that a culture or way of life is “blase”.

Gluttony is just as dangerous is driving drunk, but you don’t see society going out of its way to correct that anytime soon.

Gwinnett Parent

October 6th, 2010
8:30 pm

Wow…teenagers drink?(eyes rolling) Actually my parents let me drink at home in moderation starting at a young age. I also attended parties with lots of under age booze(20+yrs ago). I never forgot things I did or got sloppy drunk. However, my fundamentalist Baptist friends in college fell flat on their faces, because they did not know how to handle alcohol. It was amazing how many of these first time drinkers woke up with guys they did not remember in their bed or just made plain idiots of themselves, because booze was such a “big deal”. Wonder how many of the Girls Gone Wild videos are from inexperienced drinkers. Guess the frat boys are happy that the strict religious parents are keeping them supplied year after year with new recruits.

Ole Guy

October 6th, 2010
8:31 pm

The entire focus on teen drinking seems to be…well…OUT of focus. As with any activity upon which teens descend, there is no standard; no (informal) “guidline” of expectation, and of consequence for failure to meet that standard.

The immediate adult response to teen drinking is, and probably always has been…DON’T! But teens, being teens, they will do the exact opposite of adult wishes (yea yea, the Ole Guy, once upon a time, was a teen, and just as screwed up as today’s teen). The major difference is the element of CONSEQUENCE within the teen domain.

The Ole Guy, and his drinkin buds, got poopoo faced over the weekend, drag raced our fathers’ cars, got into fights over who was eyeing who’s girl, etc, etc. The major difference was that, somehow, we realized that we had better 1) keep the ole man’s wheels “twix the ditches”, 2) wipe the beer spray off the windshield, and air out the car before he gets up on Saturday morning, and 3) in the event of a fender bender, seriously consider enlisting in the Foreign Legion, joining the circus, or commiting hari carri (probably mis-spelled, but you get the idea).

While we basked in the smug knowledge that we had “gotten away with it”, little did we realize that the ole man wasn’t stupid, and knew exactly what the hell you were up to. We often found, several times over, that if we allowed ourselves to do something stupid, the ole man’s wrath was an experience which no living being, who had any wish to lead a “normal life”, would want to ever contemplate. In short, we knew that “justice” would be swift and sure…a “warmed-up” six, a punch in the nose, restriction (a complete removal from life as we once knew) only to be replaced with a life style roughly equivilent to that in the gulags.

Did that mean that the ole man didn’t love us? NO WAY…in fact, the complete opposite. After all, what adult wants to inundate his waking hours pissing around with a cement-headed kid who eats everything not nailed down, drops his weights on his bedroom’s wooden floor, and, in general, does stupid stuff all the time. Eventually, that kid learns to behave responsibly, to “get it together”, and to “pull his head out of his six”. He’ll still tie one on, do dumb stuff, and behave like a moron. But, somehow, along the way, he will have developed the mental discipline to “square himself away”.

I don’t think today’s crop of teens has ever experienced…nor will they ever experience…that kind of love.

Devildog

October 6th, 2010
9:01 pm

Tell ‘em to call Dr. Oz. He’ll take care of it. C’mon, this has been going on since fire was invented and it’s not going to stop.

Atlanta Native

October 6th, 2010
10:02 pm

@ Angela

I always enjoy watching the guy whose fat is in folds lecturing about the evils of alcohol.

ATLBadger

October 6th, 2010
10:23 pm

Love Wisconsin tavern culture. Closest thing to it in Georgia is Decatur, where it’s perfectly normal to see a family in a pub (during the afternoon/evening hours at least). Indeed it was the kids from the strictest families who had the most problems with alcohol upon arriving in college.

The reason American kids drink so much is because we treat alcohol like it’s such a taboo thing in this country. Go to Europe and the most embarrassingly intoxicated groups of 18 year olds you’ll see are the American’s. We grow up in a society where you can get killed in war, but can’t order a beer. When American high schools get alcohol they get wasted because it’s an opportunity they eagerly anticipate and feels special. If they grew up in an environment where they could have a glass of beer or wine with their parents they would be less inclined to make a huge deal of getting it with their friends.

Same thing goes for weed. Pretty sure that teenagers in the Netherlands (where personal consumption of marijuana is basically legal) smoke less pot than American teenagers. Take something that is naturally enjoyable, tell them they can’t do it, then watch them rebel against it by going totally overboard with it.

Really amazed

October 6th, 2010
10:48 pm

Legal in Europe! In Italy they have wine with just about all meals. Jesus turned the water into wine!! We live in such a hipocritic society here in the USA. The same ones that are saying not allowed to drink are the same once that stuff themselves with too many pies, cakes cigarettes etc. Truth is your child is better off with a little wine than that McDonald’s Happy Meal!!!!! I agree with above comment!! If this were legal in USA would be a lot less hype! Not sayin I allow my children to drink and take drugs. I will admit they see me enjoying a little wine from time to time. Not many cakes, pies McDonald’s though.

Fanny B Tender

October 7th, 2010
8:17 am

Dr Tim. Could you prescribe me some Qualudes?

Valerie Davidson

October 7th, 2010
9:47 am

Procuring alcohol just got much easier! Our local police department has informed our middle school administrators that there are now energy drinks available that contain alcohol (sometimes containing four times the alcohol found in a 12 oz bottle of beer), and they are not easily distinguishable from non-alcoholic energy drinks – so local underage youths are finding them relatively easy to purchase! It necessitates an extra level of vigilence to monitor for these at our school. That is scary.

Booklover

October 7th, 2010
10:45 am

@Enough Already

Haha, you crack me up. Please re-read my post. I was discussing the way in which I was raised (btw, I’m only 31 and don’t have my own kids because I believe in being financially prepared first and I don’t feel financially prepared yet), so I guess my siblings and I are the proverbial “brats.”

Without getting too much into my family life, let me tell you a little about these “brats.” Let’s just say that none of us has ever been arrested or in any sort of trouble, we all got excellent grades in school through college, we all volunteer (my brother runs an award-winning volunteer organization in our hometown), and we all do well in our professional jobs. My parents made sure that we have a strong work ethic and that we are responsible for our actions. Clearly my parents’ parenting philosophy differs slightly from yours, but that does not make their children are “brats.”

I’ve no doubt that our entire hometown, including teachers, coaches, and community leaders, would laugh at the idea of the three of us “dragging down” the rest of the student population because as teens we had some drinks with our parents! In high school, college, and afterward, we have all received numerous academic and community accolates for our hard work and leadership.

Your ad hominem attack supports the idea that your argument is not very strong on its own merits.

Have a beer. Chill out and enjoy yourself. You’ll like life better.

Booklover

October 7th, 2010
10:57 am

@ATLBadger

Your observations are astute and backed up by scientific and sociological evidence. Thank you.

JacketFan

October 7th, 2010
12:44 pm

10 am? LOL. Go to Southern Louisiana during Mardi Gras … we used to get started at 6:30 am. Tailgating at LSU begins around 6 am on game day.There was a bar in Mamou, LA called Fred’s – they opened at 8 am every Saturday, serving Pearl beer and Hot Damn. Great times. I loved going to grad school in LA.

Wisconsin Fan

October 7th, 2010
2:03 pm

Good thing the author included her anecdote about that one time, in Wisconsin, over 10 years ago, that there was a crowded bar on Sunday morning somewhere in the backwoods. No wonder Wisconsin has the highest rate of alcohol. Obviously you would never ever see something like that here.

JacketFan

October 7th, 2010
2:18 pm

^^^^ This one time, in band camp … lulz.