Karen Thomas-USA Today
Wednesday, February 27, 2002
An analysis of national data by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) finds overall alcohol use among teens involves 48% of girls and 52% of boys. Tenth-grade girls who binge drink (five or more drinks in a row) reached 31% in 1999; 34% of boys that age are binge drinkers. The gender gap disappears entirely among ninth-graders: 40% of boys drink vs. 41% of girls; 22% of boys binge vs. 20% of girls. ''We found that . . . girls want to be one of the boys, so they go drink-for-drink with them,'' says CASA President Joseph Califano. ''Also, girls are under enormous pressure to have sex, and alcohol is a big disinhibitor.'' Experts say alcohol is more problematic for women, who metabolize it more slowly and become intoxicated more quickly than men. They also tend to become alcohol-dependent faster. The report says underage drinking accounts for one-fourth of all alcohol consumed in the USA, a figure hotly disputed Tuesday. The conclusions are ''absolutely, statistically wrong,'' says Peter Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Late Tuesday, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, whose data CASA used, said underage drinking accounts for 11.4% of consumption. CASA is calling for stricter alcohol policies and a campaign against underage drinking financed by the alcohol industry. Cressy says the industry has spent $120 million in the past 10 years to counter underage drinking. Among adults polled by CASA: * 86% want restrictions on home delivery of alcohol. * 74% support restrictions on alcohol advertising. * 76% say parents should be held legally responsible for teen drinking.