guidance shows how parent attitudes, behaviors and boundaries -- as well as a
teen’s circle of friends – can influence alcohol use.
evidence shows how alcohol can interfere with brain development and function,
the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to talk with their teens about
the risks and set firm rules against its use.
strengthens its call to prevent and reduce underage drinking in an updated
policy statement, “Alcohol Use by Youth,” published in the July issue of Pediatrics
(published online June 24). An accompanying technical report outlines the
evidence for AAP recommendations and states that alcohol remains the most
common substance used by teens.
“The teen years
are a critical time for brain growth, when connections responsible for
emotional regulation, planning and organization are being formed and fine-tuned,”
said Joanna Quigley, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement.
“Alcohol paves a
pathway for addiction when the brain is still maturing, affecting the area that
governs decision-making. As parents, we don’t want to downplay those risks, but
keep the conversations open and model healthy habits.”
environmental and social factors contribute to alcohol use and behaviors.
People who begin drinking at a younger age are more likely to have an alcohol
use disorder later in life, regardless of their gender or race, studies have
“Binge drinking is
especially dangerous and is known to lead to other risky behaviors, such as
drinking and driving,” said Sheryl Ryan, MD, FAAP, who chairs the AAP Committee
on Substance Use and Prevention and is lead author of the technical report.
“Pediatricians should screen their patients for alcohol use and help them
understand the impact on the brain and behaviors.””
The good news is,
teen alcohol use has gradually declined overall since the 1990s. In 2018, more
than 36% of students surveyed in 8th, 10th and 12 grades
reported using alcohol in the prior 12 months before the survey, according to
the 2018 Monitoring the Future Study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse
and University of Michigan. That compares to 1997, when the percentage of teens
who reported using alcohol over the prior year reached 61 percent, the highest
level recorded during the survey’s 44-year history.
The AAP recommends
that pediatricians screen for alcohol use and provide education to teens and
their families about hazards, consequences and potential interventions.
a clear message against the use of alcohol under age 21.
existing state laws for a minimum purchase age of 21 for alcohol and
advocate for taxes on alcohol products.
strengthening graduated driver licensing programs, which have been adopted
in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The laws indirectly affect
drinking and driving by restricting nighttime driving and the
transportation of younger passengers.
for more research on the impact of alcohol use on the developing brain.
the role of schools in screening for underage alcohol use and providing
general health education and community programs.
the sale and distribution of powdered alcohol.
crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens and young adults, and
alcohol plays a major role in many of those crashes.
as we see progress -- with fewer kids drinking overall than 20 years ago -- not
everyone is getting the message,” Dr. Quigley said. “We can’t be complacent
now. Families and pediatricians can work together help set boundaries and
expectations for teens, model healthy coping behaviors to them, and help them
navigate social expectations with confidence.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds