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Alcohol Consumption Starting At An Early Age

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RALEIGH — No parent wants to think their child is abusing alcohol. But research proves younger and younger kids are turning to the bottle.

Odds are some of us took our first drink in high school. Now a study says it's different. Kids are different, and the drinking starts much earlier.

A new survey shows that, on average, kids in the U.S. start drinking at age 14.

"I know a lot of kids who thought 'I'll just take one or two sips at like 12, 13.' But as they get older, they get less cautious, and they get addicted," said eighth grader Nanzeen Baig.

New research shows kids in the South hit the bottle earlier, between the ages of 7 and 10.

"Children are getting hooked on alcohol at younger and younger ages. We used to worry about it simply as a teenage problem. Now it's a middle school problem, and we're wondering how low it's going to go," said Dr. Joseph Zanga, President of theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics.

This means all parents need to look for the warning signs of alcohol abuse while their kids are young.

"Become aware of such things as lower grades, changes in attitude, more defensiveness, more secretiveness, more isolation, change in peer network, the obvious signs of intoxication," said substance abuse family counselor Rob Young.

If you discover alcohol abuse in your child, what do you do? You can't ignore the problem, but you can't be overbearing either.

"You have to confront," explained Pathways Program director Debbie Harrison. "And do it from the perspective of your concern and your right as a parent. Sometimes parents are afraid to confront their children, and you have to look real strongly at who's in charge."

Counselors also say that in some of the more difficult cases, parents can get breathalizers.


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