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Kavanaugh Hearings Spotlight Adolescent Drinking Problem
Tuesday October 9th, 2018
With a party involving teen drinking serving as the backdrop of sexual assault accusations examined in confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, experts say alcohol use among young people remains a pervasive problem that should not be minimized.
“It is absolutely still an issue. Adolescent drinking is a problem,” said Karen Wolownik Albert, a social worker and executive director of Gateway Foundation’s Lake County treatment center. “It does tend to get normalized … which is a mistake.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey, about 60 percent of ninth- through 12th-graders reported ever having had a drink of alcohol, while about 30 percent reported having had a drink in the previous month. Although that represents a downward trend from past decades (in 1991, more than 80 percent of high school students reported ever having tried alcohol), that number is still too high, Albert said.
“There is a very strong correlation that the earlier young people start using alcohol, the more likely they are to be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder,” she said. “We see that if young people delay drinking until (the legal drinking age of) 21, their rates are much, much less.”
Albert said the notion that high school or college drinking is a normal rite of passage — a point of debate during the Kavanaugh hearings — still exists and is dangerous.
“We should not minimize this as normal adolescent behavior. These substances are very dangerous for adolescents, mostly because of brain development,” she said.
In addition to addiction issues, the harmful effects of alcohol on the brain are even stronger for the developing teenage brain, said…