Teen Girls
and Alcohol

 

Report: Teen girls big alcohol consumers

By Karen Thomas, USA TODAY

Teenage girls are almost as likely to drink alcohol as teen boys are, closing a generations-old gender gap, a study released Tuesday says.

Percent of 10th grade girls and boys who binge drink:

 

1991

1993

1995

1997

1999

Boys

31.4

27.2

32.1

32.7

33.5

Girls

22.4

25.3

28.3

26.3

31.1

Source: CASA's analysis of five years of data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Full report at http://www.casacolumbia.org

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 also says underage drinking accounts for one-fourth of all alcohol consumed in the USA, a figure that was hotly disputed.

First, Peter Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, called the figure "absolutely, statistically wrong." Then the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, whose data CASA used, said underage drinking actually accounts for 11.4% of consumption.

CASA acknowledged "an oversight" by not adjusting the data for the general population. However, CASA said it believed 11.4% was low for several reasons, including the fact that young adults underreport drinking and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration data do not account for binge drinking.

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.