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Prevent Underage Drinking

Start Early and Ongoing

When it comes to preventing underage drinking, research shows that early education is the best defense. Which is why if your child is in elementary school, this is the best time to start the conversation—and start it early. 

Research shows that children are beginning to drink at a younger age. In fact, a Partnership Attitude Tracking study reports that about 10 percent of 9-year-olds have consumed more than a sip of alcohol, while a report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) shows that one-third of children ages 12 to 17 had their first drink before 13.  

Very young drinkers are becoming a major concern. Unfortunately, this trend will have serious consequences in the future. Research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicates that children who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to have drinking problems than those who start drinking at age 21 or later. 


Signs and symptoms 

Smell of alcohol on clothes and breath. 

Sudden change in mood or attitude. 

Change in attendance or performance at school. 

Loss of interest in school, sports or other activities. 

Discipline problems at school. 

Withdrawal from family and friends. 


Alcohol disappearing from your home. 

Depression and developmental difficulties. 


What you can do 

Lock up your alcohol. 

Talk to your kids about alcohol-related messages they get through ads, the news and entertainment sources. These messages may conflict with what you’ve taught them. 

Encourage your kids to ask questions about things they see and hear about alcohol. You’ll learn a great deal about what they’re thinking.
Make sure your child knows your rules—and that you’ll enforce the consequences if rules are broken.  

Role play with your child. Create a situation in which someone offers him drugs or alcohol and help strengthen their exit plan.
Offer tools that help them out of a sticky situation. Let them know to use you as an excuse.
Model responsible drinking for them. Before you go out, choose not to drink or establish the designated driver.

Possible risks 

Dependence. People who reported drinking before the age of 15 were four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol at some point in their lives.  

Illicit drug use. More than 67 percent of young people who start drinking before the age of 15 will try an illicit drug. 

Violence. Children who start drinking before age 15 are 10 times more likely to be in a fight while or after drinking. 

Poor academic performance. Children who drink are at risk for lower grades and absenteeism. Alcohol can interfere with a student’s ability to think, making learning and concentration more difficult. 


Conversation starters 

What do you think alcohol is?  

Do you know what age you need to be to drink alcohol? 

Do you know that some candy can have alcohol in it? (Reinforce that they should never take candy or a drink from anyone.) 

Ongoing communication is key- start early and continue as they grow.

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