Provider News Fall 2015 - Underage drinking

Studies show that parents still have sway over underage drinking

Physicians have a unique opportunity to contribute to the health of patients they might never see. When  it comes to drugs and alcohol, most physicians already know it’s worth asking about your patient’s habits and usage. But you can also help influence whether your patients’ children use alcohol.

If you want to deter or delay the onset of underage drinking, studies have shown that parents have the most influence over their children. Simply telling your child you don’t want them drinking and why is the best drug-prevention tactic currently available. That’s where physicians can educate parents. Along with asking your patients about drug and alcohol use, mention you care about their children’s use, too. Encourage them to talk to their kids about drugs and alcohol. (Example: “I don’t want you to drink now because it hurts your chances of getting good grades and going to college.”)

Most underage drinkers have that first drink in a private home – theirs or a friend’s. Certain times of year also pose an increased threat of underage drinking. SAMHSA data suggests most teens have their first drink during the summer months. (The next-most common time? The winter holiday from school.)

Studies show that teens who start drinking early are more likely to develop alcohol problems later. Learn more about talking to kids about drugs and alcohol by referring parents to

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking: A Guide to Action for Educators.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2007.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Underage Drinking: A Major Public Health Challenge.” April, 2003.