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Conflicting Statistics on Teen Drinking Reported on NPR

March 25, 2009 2:54 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

It was reported on NPR’s Weekend Edition March 22 that, despite the fact that national surveys over the past few years have shown that teen drinking is on the decline, new data from the University of California concludes just the opposite.

The report took listeners into an emergency room in Sacramento, where they have seen an increase in severely intoxicated middle school and high school kids, and the UC Davis Medical Center wherein they report a 30 percent increase in kids aged 12 to 17 who are coming in with injuries related to binge drinking and with blood alcohol levels higher than in the past.

Listeners were also introduced to 15-year-old Leandra Ybarra, who almost died of alcohol poisoning after drinking an entire bottle of coconut-flavored rum in less than 30 minutes. Ybarra blacked out and tells the reporter that that seems to be the norm among teens that drink. She says that it’s all about how much alcohol a teen can take in before passing out.

This information, according to the NPR report, seems to fly in the face of Monitoring the Future, an independent group that studies the behaviors, attitudes, and values of secondary, high school, and college students and young adults. Each year this group surveys approximately 50,000 eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade students with follow-up questionnaires mailed to a sampling of graduating classes for many years following their initial participation with the group. Lloyd Johnston, a lead investigator with Monitoring the Future states that their figures show that fewer kids have been drinking over the last 8 to 10 years, and says that one of the reasons for the conflicting statistics could be that there are more extreme forms of drinking among those teens who do choose to drink, and more of them are ending up in the hospital.

Also covered in the report are the mention of so-called “alcopops” (energy drinks with alcohol in them and flavored alcoholic beverages), plus a discussion on the different forms of alcohol advertising and the arguments, both pro and con, on whether or not the alcohol industry is aiming its advertising at kids.

A very interesting and informative report. It can be heard here on NPR’s site.

Shawn McMaster is a project coordinator for Straight Up Ventura County.