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DHS news release

November 7, 2005


Contact: Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738
Program contact: Bob Nikkel (503) 945-9708


Surveys shows 4-year increase in eighth-grade girls' underage drinking



Oregon eighth-grade girls' drinking rates increased by a third over the past four years, with most girls and boys alike saying they get illegal alcohol from friends or at home.


New data Monday from the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) show that 58 percent of eighth-graders say alcohol is "very easy" or "sort of easy" to get, while 81 percent of 11th-graders do.


"The trend in underage drinking is heading in the wrong direction and, if we don't engage parents, students, teachers and our communities in an effort to stop underage drinking before it begins, the long-term implications will affect the entire state," Gov. Ted Kulongoski said Monday. "I have asked state officials and my council on alcohol and drug abuse programs, local government and others who care about this issue to come together to prioritize the most effective strategies so that we can reverse this trend and move Oregon's statistics in the right direction."


The data are from the state's annual Healthy Teens Survey, with full results available on the DHS Web site.


"This tells us we need to focus more on where teens get their alcohol -- and it usually isn't from a retail store," said Bob Nikkel, DHS mental health and addictions administrator. "We're going to be vigorous about telling parents and teens alike that underage drinking is a prescription for traffic fatalities, school failure, sexually transmitted diseases, adolescent pregnancy, youth suicide and problems with the law."


Nikkel said a new Oregon campaign against underage drinking will launch in mid-December.


He said eighth-grade girls who reported drinking alcohol during the prior 30 days increased to 33 percent this year from less than 25 percent in 2001, an increase of a third, while eighth-grade boys' drinking rose to 27.1 percent from 24.4 percent four years ago. He said 11th-grade girls reported drinking more heavily than 11th-grade boys, 48 percent to 46.8 percent, while the 11th-grade girls' drinking rate had risen from 41.8 percent in 2001, or almost 15 percent.


Among eighth-graders, Nikkel said, 12 percent reported obtaining alcohol from parents with their permission and another 12 percent claimed to obtain alcohol at home without permission. He said the only more frequently cited sources were friends under age 21 (15.1 percent) and parties (13.6 percent). He said gas stations and grocery and convenience stories each registered less than 2 percent.


"It's bad enough that Oregon's $7-million-a-year prevention budget for all alcohol and drugs is dwarfed by an estimated $55 million in alcohol advertising and promotion in Oregon," Nikkel said. "It's worse when we see so many parents contributing to their own kids' risky behavior with possibly tragic consequences."


He said the highest incidence of underage drinking was among eighth- and 11th-grade girls in four Oregon north coast counties (Columbia, Clatsop, Lincoln, Tillamook) and among eighth-grade girls in 18 Eastern Oregon counties.


Among initiatives being pursued to try to reduce underage drinking, aside from the ad campaign, are contracts with the Oregon State University and University of Oregon sports marketing departments; federal gr​ants  to support efforts in Lake and Wallowa counties and in Newport; an initiative to build community coalitions against underage drinking on the Warm Springs Indian reservation in Jefferson County; a contract with a Berkeley research group to identify most-effective strategies against underage drinking; and recent awarding of $560,000 spread across the state's 36 counties and nine tribes to develop plans to combat underage drinking.