Girls drink almost as much as boys, CASA says

Posted 9:04 p.m. March 5

by Robert Friedman
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Binge drinking among high school students is on the rise, and teenage girls becoming more likely to drink alcohol than teenage boys, according to a study released last week.

An analysis of national data conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) found that 48 percent of girls and 52 percent of boys surveyed reported drinking.

According to the survey, 31 percent of 10th grade girls and 34 percent of 10th grade boys admitted to binge drinking in 1999, compared to 22.4 percent of girls and 31.4 percent of boys in 1991. Binge drinking is defined as more than five drinks in row.

The data shows that among ninth-graders the traditional gender gap between the amount of male and female drinkers is closing. At that age, 40 percent of girls and 41 percent of boys report drinking, with 22 percent of boys and 20 percent of girls binge drinking.

“We found that girls want to be one of the boys, so they go drink-for-drink with them,” said CASA President Joseph Califano. “Also, girls are under enormous pressure to have sex, and alcohol is a big disinhibitor.”

The report also noted that underage drinking accounts for 25 percent of all alcohol consumption in the United States, drawing sharp criticism from many youth advocates.

Peter Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States called that percentage “absolutely, statistically wrong.”

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, who provided the data for CASA, said that the percentage was closer to 11.4 percent of total consumption. CASA supported their analysis by claiming that the 11.4 percent figure excludes underage binge drinkers.

Regardless of the actual percentage, it is clear that underage drinking is an even larger problem now that is has been in the past.

Peggy Sapp, president of National Family Partnership said, “Parents must understand that they are the first line of defense in raising healthy children.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 42 percent of ninth-graders had their first drink before the age of 13. This statistic coincides with the trend found by CASA: most teens who experiment with alcohol continue to use it.

CASA is calling for stricter alcohol policies and a campaign against underage drinking.

In the past decade, $120 million has been spent to counter the trend of rising underage drinking numbers.

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