Pediatricians Suggest Kids As Young As 9 Ready For Alcohol Discussions

By McCarton Ackerman 09/14/15

It's never too early to talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol.

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New guidance released by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that it’s never too early to talk to kids about the dangers of drinking, with the pediatrics organization stating kids as young as nine should be having these discussions with their parents.

The findings, published in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics, said that kids start to have positive associations about alcohol anywhere between age 9 and 13. Dr. Lorena Siqueira, a Miami-based pediatrician, said that “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.”

Siqueira and her colleagues noted that 79% of teenagers have tried alcohol by 12th grade and 21% had done so before the age of 13. She wrote in the report that “alcohol is the substance most frequently used by children and adolescents in the United States, and its use in youth is associated with the leading causes of death and serious injury at this age (i.e., motor vehicle accidents, homicides, and suicides)."

Even more concerning is that teens drink heavily at rates far greater than adults. Nearly 50% of youth ages 12 to 14 who drink do so at potentially dangerous levels and that rate increases to 72% among those ages 18 to 20. The researchers urged physicians to begin screening all adolescents for alcohol use, noting that “just using one's clinical impression can underestimate substance use, and therefore structured screening instruments are recommended.”

The researchers concluded their findings by urging parents to talk with their kids about the dangers of drinking, stating that “80% of teenagers say their parents are the biggest influence on their decision of whether or not to drink.”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes that the average age of first alcohol use was 14 in 2003, compared to 17.5 in 1969. People who reported starting to drink before the age of 15 were four times more likely to also report meeting the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.