MYTH: Europeans let their kid drink at an early age, yet they do not have the alcohol-realted problems we do.

Actually, in Europe, young people have higher intoxication rates than in the United States, and less than a quarter had lower or equivalent rates to the United States. Also, a greater percentage of young people in a majority of Europe report binge drinking at higher rates then compared to their US counterparts. 1-2 Most European youth have higher rates of alcohol-related problems because of their heavy drinking.

Perhaps the best example of fact versus myth is what happened in New Zealand. In 1999, New Zealand lowered its purchase age from 20 to 18. Not only did drunk driving crashes increase, but youth started to drink earlier, binge drinking escalated, and in the 12 months following the decrease in legal drinking age, there was a 50 percent increase in intoxicated 18- and 19-year-old patients at the Auckland Hospital emergency room.3

1. The ESPAD Report 2003.  Alcohol and Other Drug Use Among Students in 35 European Countries.  Published 2004. Read excerpts here.
2. Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2004). Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings, 2003 (NIH Publication No. 04-5506). Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse. Read the overview here.
3. Kyrpi, Kypros, et al.  “Minimum Purchasing Age for Alcohol and Traffic Crash Injuries Among 15- to 19-Year-Olds in New Zealand.” American Journal of Public Health, January 2006, Voi 96, No. 1.  Read the study here.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

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