Teen Alcohol Quiz
By CWK Network Producer
“Have you ever ridden in a car driven by someone [including yourself] who was ‘high’ or had been using alcohol or drugs?”
– CRAFFT test question-
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. No matter what time of year, how many parents actually know when, how and why their kids are drinking? A new study suggests that teens are heavily influenced by the drinking habits of their friends.
Millions of underage kids drink. And some of those millions will become addicted.
“I mean I drink to have fun,” says 18-year-old Stan Swisher.
“I’ve come to terms with my alcoholism,” says 18-year-old Jennifer Mackrell.
Do parents really know the signs of alcoholism among their teens? A diagnostic questionnaire designed by researchers from Harvard University may help.
It’s call the CRAFFT Test and there are these six questions:
C – Have you ever ridden in a CAR driven by someone (including yourself) who was “high” or had been using alcohol or drugs?
R – Do you ever use alcohol or drugs to RELAX, feel better about yourself, or fit in?
A – Do you ever use alcohol/drugs while you are by yourself, ALONE?
F – Do you ever FORGET things you did while using alcohol or drugs?
F – Do your family or FRIENDS ever tell you that you should cut down on your drinking or drug use?
T – Have you gotten into TROUBLE while you were using alcohol or drugs?
The authors say that teens who answer yes to two or more of these questions are either alcoholics, drug addicts… or at the risk of becoming one.
The test was designed by pediatricians to use during regular office visits.
“I think doctors are in an ideal position to do it, but my experience with physicians is they don’t have time,” says Dr. David Karol Gore, an addiction therapist.
Parents can ask doctors to take the time… but they should also discuss drugs and alcohol directly with their children.
“They may not get the answers that are truthful, but by asking the questions they’ll hopefully be opening up the possibility the children and teenagers will want to talk to them at a later date,” says Dr. Gore. And at that later date, he says parents should ask the questions again … and teach their children to ask themselves.
“I could give you some of my friends who could probably answer ‘Yes’ to all of these questions,” says Stan Swisher.
What Parents Need to Know
After a decade of consistent declines in teen drug abuse, a recent national study released by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the MetLife Foundation points to a marked upswings in use of drugs that teens are likely to encounter at parties and in other social situations. According to the 2009 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), the number of teens in grades 9-12 that used alcohol in the past month has grown by 11 percent (from 35 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2009).
Underage drinking occurs when anyone under age 21 drinks alcohol in any amount or form. Underage drinking is dangerous and it’s against the law, except in special cases when it is part of a religious ceremony. It is a major cause of death from injuries among young people. Each year, approximately 5,000 people under age 21 die as a result of underage drinking; this includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 as a result of homicides, 300 from suicide, and hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning. Additionally, underage drinking can harm the developing teenage brain. Today we know that the brain continues to develop from birth through the adolescent years and into the mid 20s.
Beer and wine is NOT safer than hard liquor. Alcohol is alcohol – and it can cause problems no matter how it is consumed. One 12-ounce bottle of beer or a 5-ounce glass of wine (about a half cup) has as much alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor.
So why do so many teens have a problem with drugs or alcohol? No single cause of adolescent drug problems exists, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Drug abuse develops over time, and it does not start as full-blown abuse or addiction. The AAMFT cites some of the following factors that may place teens at risk for developing drug problems:
- Insufficient parental supervision and monitoring
- Lack of communication and interaction between parents and teens
- Poorly defined and poorly communicated rules and expectations against drug use
- Inconsistent and excessively severe discipline
- Family conflict
- Favorable parental attitudes toward adolescent alcohol and drug use, and parental alcoholism or drug use
Since adolescence is a time of curiosity and experimentation, young people are especially vulnerable to being tempted by drugs and alcohol. Caring adults – parents, family members and other caregivers – have the best chance of helping children grow up to be drug-free, says the American Council for Drug Education. When talking to your child about drug use, keep in mind the following common concerns that most parents have when introducing the topic of drugs and alcohol:
- “I don’t want to be a hypocrite.” What if you smoke, enjoy the occasional cocktail or experimented with drugs once yourself? This is a legitimate concern, but it should not dissuade you from communicating honestly with your child and sharing what experience has taught you. You don’t have to project a perfect image to be an effective communicator! We are all human, and this is in itself an important message.
- “I don’t want to plant ideas in my child’s head.” Are you concerned that you might inadvertently prompt your child to consider drug use when it wasn’t even in his or her mind? Don’t worry, discussions don’t suddenly make children users. In fact, you can safely assume that your child is already aware of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Discussing these topics clarifies information and lets children know your views – it doesn’t invite them to use these substances.
- “I am uncomfortable with this role.” Don’t be afraid to share your discomfort with your child. No doubt he or she already senses it. An admission from you reassures your child that your anxiety stems from within you, not from something he or she has said or done.