Some Facts on Teen Drinking and Drug Abuse
By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
(taken from the research of CASA)
• Alcohol is far and away the top drug of abuse by America’s teens.
• Children under the age of 21 drink 19.7 percent of the alcohol consumed in the U.S.
• Teenagers who drink are seven times likelier to engage in promiscuous activity
• Preliminary studies have shown that alcohol damages young minds, limiting mental and social development.
• High schoolers who drink are five times likelier to drop out of school.
• Teens who experiment with alcohol are virtually certain to continue using it. Among high school students who have ever tried alcohol--even once--91.3 percent are still drinking in twelfth grade.
• Teen drinking is the number one source of adult alcoholism. Children who begin drinking before age 21 are more than twice as likely to develop alcohol-related problems. Those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times likelier to become alcoholics than those who do not drink before age 21.
- Parents tend to see drinking and occasional bingeing as a rite of passage, rather than a deadly round of Russian roulette.
- College administrators and alumni have played Pontius Pilate, washing their hands and looking away, as students made beer, alcohol and binge drinking a central part of their college experience.
- Alcohol damages the young brain, interferes with mental and social development and interrupts academic progress.
- The earlier young people drink and the more they drink, the more likely they are to become alcohol dependent and move on to other drugs.
- Teens who smoke nicotine cigarettes are 14 times likelier to try marijuana
- Among teens who are repeat marijuana users, 60 percent tried cigarettes first. The findings indicate that reducing teen smoking can be a singularly effective way to reduce teen marijuana use.
The first steps necessary to address any issue are honest reflection and brutal candor. Let us ask ourselves some honest questions:
- Are we comfortable with the level of drinking and smoking among our teenagers?
- What is, in fact, the level of drinking and smoking among our teens?
- What are the costs of teen drinking and smoking to our children and families in terms of addiction, heath-related illnesses, and the dramatically increased risk of co-dependency?
- Are these issues on the radar of our collective consciousness?
- Are we willing to address these issues and do whatever it takes to improve them?
HONESTY ABOVE ALL
Several weeks ago, I noted in this space that the opinion of the vast majority of kids with whom I spoke was that their parents are ‘clueless’ as to the extent of the magnitude of teen drinking and smoking.
In the spirit of Purim, please allow me to share with you a true story that happened to me several weeks ago. I was approached by a group of teenagers who wanted to discuss these columns and the impact they may have on their lives. They were very respectful, but quite upset. They were concerned that their parents would get ‘bent out of shape’ and ‘crack down’ on them after reading my observations about teen drinking and smoking. They also felt that their parents may not allow them to go to Eretz Yisroel as a result of what I had written.
I asked them to share with me the particular segments of my columns that upset them. One of them asked me, “How can you write that 20-50% of teens are smoking?”
I smiled and asked him if he agreed with my assessment. He told me that he thinks the number is higher than 50%, but he shared with me several reasons why he felt it was a ‘bad idea’ to publicize this information.
Then, one of his friends, a charming 17-year old delivered an off-the-cuff one-liner that spoke volumes. He told his friend, “What are you so worried about? None of our parents will do anything; each of the parents who read that article will think that their son is from the other 50% [who are not smoking]!!
Your honor, I rest my case.
© 2003 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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