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It is well known that by the time they are seniors, almost all U.S. high-school students have tried alcohol, many drink with some regularity, and a substantial number drink either frequently or in quantity. However, despite its importance, alcohol misuse among adolescents has not been carefully characterized beyond simple frequency and quantity measures, particularly in youth populations that include highschool dropouts.

A recent study by Phyllis Ellickson and her colleagues in the Drug Policy Research Center provides such a characterization. The research confirms the pervasive nature of teenage drinking and indicates that alcohol misuse may be more of a problem than previously imagined. A second study demonstrates that drinking by teens, unlike their use of illicit drugs, is more strongly associated with sociability than with antisocial behavior. Together, the findings suggest that attempts to control teen alcohol consumption should focus less on prevention of initiation or any use and more on prevention of misuse.

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