Though many adults chuckle over their first experiments with alcohol, youthful drinking is no joke.
Because of their physical immaturity, it takes adolescent abusers only a year to reach the advanced stages of alcoholism. Adults may take 30 years to get to that point.
Consider these U.S. figures:
* The average age for beginning to drink is 12.
* Nearly half of all teens who commit suicide are intoxicated at the time.
* Though 93 per cent of children in Grades 4 to 6 say cocaine is a drug, only 21 per cent think wine coolers are drugs.
It is particularly apparent at this time of year that society is becoming less tolerant of alcoholic excess in living rooms and on the roadways. At the same time, most of us accept the conventional notion that alcoholism is a disease rather than a sign of moral degeneracy. In this provocative and timely essay, Richard Wright, editor of books for the American magazine The New Republic, challenges that idea. He points to the dangers in labelling alcoholism a disease and thereby exonerating the alcoholic of any blame.
Recovering alcoholics are helping curb drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace, says the co-ordinator of substanceabuse programs for the Canadian Auto Workers.
A program started by the union in 1984 allows workers who overcame drug and alcohol addiction to confront co-workers and recommend treatment, James Kennedy told a recent conference on substance abuse.
Kennedy said 35 of the 200 companies that employ union members - including General Motors, Ford and Chrysler - have fullor part-time substance-abuse counsellors.
Although four times as many men as women are being treated for alcoholism, drinking problems among women have increased since World War II, says a study published in the United States.
"As society changes and more and more women are exposed to heavy drinking, we will see more and more alcoholism," said Dr. Sheila Blume, whose article is part of a series on alcoholism in the Journal of the American Medical Association.