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Over 700,000 Young Teens Drink Alcohol; Most Get It From Home

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A new analysis of four years of government data shows that most underage youth get alcohol from home, and about a third were given it by their parents or guardians, according to a Feb. 17 press release from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Drawing on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) conducted annually 2006 through 2009, SAMHSA estimated that about 709,000 U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 14 currently drink alcohol.

Over 44,000 teens ages 12 to 14 participated in the surveys, of whom 5.9 percent said they drank alcohol in the previous month.

Nearly half of the youth surveyed either got their alcohol from a parent or guardian (29.6 percent), or from home (15.7 percent). Others acquired it from an unrelated adult (13.5 percent) or from another underage youth (19.6 percent). 

“People who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are six times more likely than those who start at age 21 and older to develop alcohol problems,” said SAMHSA Administrator, Pamela S. Hyde. “Parents and other adults need to be aware that providing alcohol to children can expose them to an increased risk for alcohol abuse and set them on a path with increased potential for addiction.”

TIME reported the SAMHSA data Feb. 21, but questioned whether parents who shared alcohol with their children put them at greater risk of serious alcohol problems later in life. TIME cited a Wake Forest University study from 2004 that appeared to show that teens who shared alcohol with their parents at dinner or in a religious context (versus being given alcohol for a party) were less likely to drink or to develop drinking problems.

A one page summary of SAMHSA's data was published in the Feb. 17, 2011 Data Spotlight (PDF) from SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.

More information about underage drinking:
Stop Underage Drinking – a portal of federal resources

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