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Findings About Teen Drinking

July 5, 2001

Some research findings about teen drinking in recent years:

_The age of first use of alcohol has declined over the years, going back to the mid-1960s. The average age of first use was 17.8 years in 1965 and 16.1 in 1997, according to research sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

_The earlier young people start drinking, the more likely they are to develop dependence, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

_The rates of underage drinking declined significantly in the 1980s and have remained relatively constant through the 1990s. Researchers credit the drop in the 1980s to the increase in the legal drinking age to 21, related legislation toughening penalties on alcohol use and movements such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

_Teen traffic deaths related to alcohol dropped from 3,751 in 1990 to 2,273 in 1999, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

_The percentage of college students who reported binge drinking within the previous two weeks has remained steady at 44 percent through the decade, though the numbers for those who abstain and those who engaged in frequent binge drinking have gone up slightly. Binge drinking was defined as five drinks in a row for boys and four for girls.

_NIAAA-sponsored research during recent years has indicated cognitive impairment in teens who drink heavily and changes in brain structure for young alcohol abusers.

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