Alcohol Survey Finds Teen Gender Gap Disappearing
Teenage girls are as likely to drink as teenage boys, a report by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) found, USA Today reports (Thomas, USA Today, 2/27). The study used data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association's annual Household Survey on Drug Abuse of 25,500 people (Lewin, New York Times, 2/27). It found that the "gender gap" is disappearing, as ninth grade girls and boys were just as likely to drink (Carter, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/27). CASA President Joseph Califano said, "We found that ... girls want to be one of the boys, so they go drink-for-drink with them." This can be problematic for women, as experts say women become intoxicated more quickly and tend to become dependent on alcohol more readily then men (USA Today, 2/27). The following summarizes other findings from the report, called "Teen Tipplers":
- Eighty-seven percent of adults first drank before they were 21 years old.
- Among high school students, 81% have consumed alcohol, 70% have smoked cigarettes and 47% have used marijuana (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/27).
- Those under 20 drank an average of 0.9 alcoholic beverages a day.
- At least once a month, 31% of high school students binge drink, defined as consuming five or more drinks in one setting (Reuters/Washington Times, 2/27).
- Since 1975, the number of those who began drinking at age 15 increased from 27% to 36% (New York Post, 2/27).
Regardless of when teenagers begin drinking, the report found they "almost always" continue drinking as adults (New York Times, 2/27). Califano said, "Underage drinking has reached epidemic proportions in America." Susan Foster, CASA's vice president and director of policy research and analysis, said, "Alcohol is far and away the top drug of abuse for American kids. The college binge-drinking problem starts with children and teens, and that's where our prevention and education efforts must be focused" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/27).
When the report was released yesterday, several news organizations reported that it found that underage drinkers consume 25% of the nation's alcohol. However, while the study did include such a finding, the New York Times reports that the figure is statically flawed and that CASA acknowledged it had not followed standard techniques in deriving the number (New York Times, 2/27). According to SAMHSA, 11.4% of the alcohol consumed in the county is consumed by underage drinkers (Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/27). When the percentage was incorrectly reported, the alcoholic-beverage industry went on the defensive to avoid a "public-health backlash" like the one facing the tobacco industry and called the report "flat out wrong," the Wall Street Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 2/27). Foster said that while the error was "unfortunate," the 11.4% figure from SAMHSA "is way too low, since there's so much under-reporting" (New York Times, 2/27). Regardless, CASA is using the study to push for "stricter alcohol policies" and an industry-financed campaign against underage drinking (USA Today, 2/27). The study also criticizes the entertainment industry for "glamoriz[ing]" alcohol and not depicting its consequences (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/27). Peter Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said the industry has spent $120 million over the past 10 years to combat underage drinking (USA Today, 2/27). CASA's report is available at http://www.casacolumbia.org/usr_doc/Underaged.pdf. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.