Expert Says Most Teens Drink, Some Start In Elementary School


UPDATED: Monday November 11, 2013 9:09 AM

A Dublin father and son face charges in connection with a teen's drunk driving death after he left a party that they allegedly hosted.

A local expert says teen drinking is more widespread than many parents suspect and some young drinkers start in elementary school.  But, he said that good parenting can make a difference.

That first drink can come awfully young.

Four young women shared their stories with 10TV.

Jasmine was 17 when she had her first drink.  Samantha was twelve.  Misty was ten, and Abbey was only eight when she was introduced to alcohol.  They are currently spending two years in the residential treatment center, Amethyst, to get their lives back.

Most teenagers know kids who drink, and 70 percent of them drink before they leave high school, according to Duane Casares. He is the CEO of Directions for Youth and Families, an organization that treats underage drinkers.

"This is not sipping. This is not just trying it.  This is actually spending an evening drinking," he said. "That's an alarming statistic so, I believe parents really need to have conversations with their kids and not just say...oh, I know my kid.  They're not involved.  Ask the questions."

The women from Amethyst are getting help, and learning to live without alcohol. For all of them, it's a fight that's gone on for years.

Jasmine said that she started drinking to impress the wrong crowd, which included older men.  

"I wanted to be cool," she said.

Abbey drank to escape pain.

"I was always trying to get out of myself because there was sexual abuse growing up. And I wanted to feel good.  I didn't want to feel that pain anymore," she said.

Casares said some kids, like Abbey, mimic adults in the reasons they drink.

"Adults use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate themselves, and desensitize themselves to some of the pains or problems that they're dealing with. The kids are doing the same thing, too," he said.

And they copy adult behavior in other ways, he said.

"If every time you have company over at your house you have drinks, well you have to be careful what message you're sending."

Two of these women started drinking in elementary school with their parents' blessing.

"That's who actually gave me my first drink was my mom," said Misty.

Samantha said she first drank with her father.

"I asked him for it, a way to bond with him, a way to get attention from him, and it seemed to have worked at that age."

Casares cautioned parents against trying to be a friend to their children.  Instead, he said, adults need to do the important and sometimes difficult job of parenting. Ignore that advice, he warned, and court disaster for your kids.

"Well, congratulations!  They only had one or two shots at a parent and you've decided to sub-contract that out somewhere else to be their friend."

Casares said parents should have ongoing conversations with their teenagers about many issues, including alcohol.  He said that they need to set limits, and have consequences for bad actions.

Despite what kids may argue, he said not everyone drinks, so "everyone does it" is not a good excuse.

Some suburban districts, as well as community groups, also have anti-alcohol programs in their schools.

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