“If you have your first drink before age 14, you’re 4 times more likely to develop alcoholism in your life than if you wait until after age 20.”
– Susan Tapert, Ph.D.
By the sixth grade most kids are trading in their dolls and toys for other hobbies like organized sports, clubs at school, and endless hours on the Internet. But, according to new research, around age 11, some kids may be trading their barbies for booze. When do most kids start drinking alcohol? Kim was only 12 when she started.
“I was drinking and then I was smoking, and then I tried so many different drugs,” says Kim, 15.
“She was experimenting with drugs and liquor. We had to put all the liquor away in the house, and she was going to friends houses and sampling,” says Jim Skinner, Kim’s father.
According to a study by the University of Minnesota, one in six children start drinking by the sixth grade. Research shows the earlier kids start the more likely they are to become addicted.
“If you have your first drink before age 14, you’re 4 times more likely to develop alcoholism in your life than if you wait until after age 20,” says Susan Tapert, Ph.D.
That’s why, experts say, the first line of defense against alcohol and drugs is parents who talk to their kids often and start when they’re young.
“You know, I can’t tell you how many times parents come in and they have never, never approached the word drugs or alcohol with their kids. They just want to ignore it. If they ignore it- it will go away and their kid won’t be involved,” says Shirley Kaczmarski Ed.D., educational director.
“Let them know the risks of their behaviors, and what the consequences might be and you can help them with handling those situations, and knowing what to do in order to avoid them,” says Rhonda Jeffries, M.D., pediatrician.
After months in counseling and a year in a school for troubled teens Kim is now drug and alcohol free.
“I’m very proud of myself,” says Kim.
The study also found the earlier kids start drinking, the less receptive they are to alcohol prevention programs.
Tips for Parents
Identifying adolescents at greatest risk can help stop problems before they develop. And innovative, comprehensive approaches to prevention, such as Project Northland, are showing success in reducing experimentation with alcohol as well as the problems that accompany alcohol use by young people. (NIAAA)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)