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Children's Health

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Teen Drinking Carries Lifelong Risks


When it comes to counseling your kids about alcohol, Hingson has some simple advice:

  • Adopt a household rule, based on a "no-use" message, for children under the age of 21.
  • Explain that alcohol poses a greater risk for teen-agers, due to their lack of driving experience.
  • Remind them that they could lose their license under Zero Tolerance laws in all 50 states.

One of the best ways to reduce alcohol use is to strike while the iron is hot, as a previous study showed. "We tested a brief counseling intervention among people admitted to our trauma center," says co-author of that study Dennis Donovan, PhD, a professor of behavioral science at University of Washington in Seattle. "Most people tend to cut back on drinking after an alcohol-related injury, but the effect lasts longer in young adults who get some counseling," he tells WebMD.

As the director of the university's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, Donovan says that both parents and peers play a big role in shaping teen-age drinking behavior. To reduce early alcohol use in your family, here's what Donovan recommends:

  • Be a role model in demonstrating responsible use of alcohol.
  • Do everything possible to keep your child interested in school.
  • Make it your business to know who your kid's friends are.

The influence of peers can help reduce teen-age drinking. That's the premise behind MADD's 2nd National Youth Summit, starting this Friday in Chevy Chase, Md. During the summit, high school students from all over the U.S. will make recommendations to Congress in an effort to reduce underage drinking and impaired driving.

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