Only on FOX19: Study shows Tri-State teens start drinking younger

By Corey McConnell - bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -- A new study obtained exclusively by FOX19 says fewer Tri-state teens are drinking than they were eight years ago.

But the average time they start drinking is in middle school.

The study conducted by the Coalition for a Drug Free Greater Cincinnati of 54,000 7th to 12th graders found 20 percent of teens are drinking, and they start on average at 13 and a half years old.

Actually that tender age is up from two years ago, but the coalition says there's work to be done, so they're focusing on parents.

"If there's a good relationship with their parents and they're talking about these issues about alcohol and how harmful it is and that it's not ok that kids are delaying," said Mary Haag with the Coalition for a Drug Free Cincinnati.

So what are the factors that get local teens drinking? Or deciding to stay clean and sober? Here are two very different stories.

"At my peak, if I drank all day on a Saturday I could have 60 or 70 beers in a day," said Ross Burd, 19, who says he started drinking when he was 11 years old. "It was a social thing. That's how it always starts."

At 19, he's a recovering alcoholic.

At first, it was on the weekends. By the time he was 15-years-old, it was every day.

"It made me feel comfortable," said Burd. "It made me feel like I was one of the guys that camaraderie that goes along with drinking."

The third time for Ross was a charm in rehab. But it's still a struggle every single day to stay away from alcohol and drugs.

"I have a dozen rock bottoms," he said. "I set my rock bottom when I stopped digging and I just decided to stop digging. I believe I could have been a bottomless pit. My bottom could have been death."

On his way to the top, Northwest High School senior Steve Clark has chosen not to drink, even though he says he's in the minority.

"They try to pressure me into it but I don't fool with it," he said.

Clark says he doesn't want to ruin his chances of playing college football by drinking. Not only that, but his parents took a firm stance on drinking.

"Really and truly they say, 'we catch you drinking, smell the alcohol, you get a whooping.' That's how my parents were," he said.

Not only that, but Clark says he's seen what happens to his friends when they drink.

"I seen different sides of people I'd never seen before and that changed my whole outlook on them," he said.

For Ross Burd, it's one day at a time. Sober just for today, everyday.

"I believe that if kids thought about how they were affecting others before they took that first drink they wouldn't take that drink," Burd said.