By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
December 15, 2023
As children count down the days until Christmas, U.S. public health officials are counting up the alcoholic drinks being consumed by adults and, all too often, by teens.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, on an average day in December, more than 11,000 young people (ages 12-17) in the United States will use alcohol for the first time. SAMHSA says some of them won’t make it to the new year, since close to 400 people under age 21 die from alcohol-related causes every month.
“Sadly, it’s no surprise that many teens start drinking during the holidays. Alcohol consumption goes up across the board between Thanksgiving and New Years,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. He cited a recent study by American Addiction Centers showing that 17 percent of U.S. workers say they drink every day that they are off from work during the holidays. More than a quarter of drinkers say they drink stronger liquor than usual this time of year, the study showed. And almost a quarter of those surveyed admitted to being “heavy drinkers” when it comes to the holidays.
According to a study by Students Against Destructive Decisions and Liberty Mutual Insurance, almost one out of three teens admitted to drinking alcohol in the presence of their parents.
Creech said some adults not only consider underage drinking harmless (“It’s Christmas, let’s all have a toast!”) but they may think they’re doing their children a favor by letting them experiment with alcohol in a supervised setting.
“While some may argue for controlled exposure to alcohol as a means of teaching responsible drinking to teens, the science shows the potential risks associated with such an approach far outweigh any perceived benefits,” he said.
A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study of more than 42,000 people found that those who drank before age 14 had a 45% risk of developing substance use disorder; the risk decreased to 10% for those who waited until turning 21 to drink.
“A kid who has their first drink in eighth grade, they have an almost 50% lifelong risk of developing substance use disorder. If it’s pushed by two years, into 10th grade, it drops by half, and if it’s pushed by another two years until they’re 18, it drops again by half,” explained Jessica Lahey, author of “The Addiction Inoculation,” in a recent Huff Post article.
“Research consistently demonstrates the younger individuals are when they begin consuming alcohol, the higher the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder and experiencing other adverse consequences. This is a matter of public health and protecting youth on many levels,” Creech said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees, especially since teen-age brains are still developing. Public health officials warn parents who have alcohol in their homes to keep it locked up. They say one reason there’s a rise in underage drinking during the holidays is that school is out, leaving many students home alone while parents work.
“The Christian Action League has long advocated for a policy of abstinence, especially when it comes to teen alcohol consumption. We firmly believe the well-being and future of our youth are of paramount importance, and this conviction directs our position,” Creech said. “When a group as reputable as the American Academy of Pediatrics, urges parents to help their children delay alcohol use until they reach the legal drinking age, it’s advice well worth taking.”