Health Alert: Screening youth for alcohol

Health Alert: Screening youth for alcohol
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening kids for alcohol at age 9. (Source: WOIO)
Dr. Veronica Issac discusses the dangers of alcohol with every patient. (Source: WOIO)
Dr. Veronica Issac discusses the dangers of alcohol with every patient. (Source: WOIO)

(WOIO) - While it's time for holiday cheer, some would say it's also time to pay close attention to your kids when it comes to spirits. A recent study sounds the alarm about kids and alcohol.

We've all seen a curious kid wanting just a sip of mom or dad's adult beverage. It might seem harmless enough, but a recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics would argue otherwise. It suggests screening for alcohol use actually needs to begin at age 9 now.

Clevelander Heather Westfall is surprised.

"That's bizarre. Nine? I think that's a little much!" she said.

But Clevelander Tierra Pittmon is all for it.

"No, I don't think it's too young because a lot of people out here are alcohol abusers and, you know, they sometimes actually give it to their kids," explained Pittmon. "It's not right."

"I talk about it, definitely, with every patient I see," said Cleveland Clinic pediatrician Dr. Veronica Issac.

She's not at all surprised at the age 9 recommendation.

"We know these ages are getting younger and younger, that they are getting exposed, whether it be through media or socially on Facebook, things like that," said Issac.

She would agree "things like that" results in numbers like this from the AAP study:

- 80 percent of teens have had more than a sip of alcohol by grade 12
- Among young people who drink, 50 percent of those 12-14 report heavy drinking
- Among young people who drink it goes up to 72 percent of those ages 18-20

It's talking about what's better known as binge drinking. It's especially concerning when you consider experts say even a sip is dangerous for young people.

"The brain is still developing. You are still developing all the cognitive abilities and we know alcohol can make a severe impact on them," warned Issac.

With the study also comes screening tool recommendations, which many doctors like Issac already do.

"I start by asking have they noticed any of their friends talk about using alcohol, or their friends ever tried or pressured them into trying," said Issac.

From there, she decides if further intervention is needed.

Don't be surprised if your child's doctor starts asking questions that you maybe thought were years away.

Experts stress that parents should start the conversation earlier, too.

Here's some advice on how to do that:

-Talk to your child about alcohol

-The effects of alcohol abuse

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