Kids as young as 9 years old should be taught about the dangers of alcohol, so that they can make well-informed decisions later on, suggests a recent study.
The report from the American Academy of Pediatrics is entitled “Binge drinking” and has been published in this week’s “Pediatrics” issue. It proposes that pediatricians and parents should present the risks associated with excessive drinking, long before children get the opportunity to taste alcohol for the first time.
Alcohol abuse should be discussed using a different approach than that taken when dealing with adults, because children are more delicate and inexperienced, making them much more vulnerable to the serious consequences of alcoholism. For instance, studies have shown that nearly one third of fatal car accidents involving 15-to-20-year old people were caused by alcohol use.
“The more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, and if they are already drinking this exposure leads them to drink more”, explained study co-author, Dr. Lorena Siqueira.
Findings suggest that approximately 50% of all high school students drink alcohol, and 60% of these have been known to abuse it. 21% of the kids admit to have tried alcohol before the age of 13, while 79% have already done so by 12th grade. Consequently, awareness should be raised, especially because children begin developing “positive impressions” regarding alcohol from an early age.
The report includes a summary of the negative impact alcohol consumption has on young people, based on previous research in the field, and includes potential screening questions that each teenager should be asked. The study focuses on how alcoholic drinks increase the risk of developing liver and disease, hypertension and stroke, aside from also impairing mental development.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17% of adults binge drink around 4 times each month, which means that they consume around 4-5 alcoholic drinks in a 2-hour period. Since adolescents usually weigh less, even having 3 drinks can be called binge drinking, especially because of the way kids usually consume them. In many cases, teenagers choose vodka and they drink it rapidly, sometimes straight from the bottle, with the intention of getting drunk. This bravado actually has the potential to kill them.
As a result, researchers have also included policy recommendations which could lower alcohol consumption among children and teenagers. Pricing regulations, for instance, should be established, so that alcohol can no longer be bought cheaply. Although current average prices are high enough, thrifty alternatives can still be found and are usually preferred by young people on a tight budget.
Parents can also set a good example and help children understand that although it may be a legal substance, alcohol can only be consumed moderately, after having reached a certain level of maturity. Ideally, alcohol use should be delayed until adulthood and alternative activities should be promoted instead.
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