Are You Smarter Than a 6th Grader?

A friend of mine who works in the field of addiction education and awareness was asked to speak to his daughter’s 6th grade class recently.  The teacher instructed the class to write any questions they had about alcohol abuse or alcoholism in advance and she asked my friend to answer as many as possible during his time with the class.

My friend knows my interest in educating communities about addiction so he shared the advance questions with me.

I admit I’m a bit stunned by the maturity and wisdom in the questions from these 6th graders.  I’m also more than a little afraid; these kids know a lot about alcohol for 11 and 12-year-olds.

When I was 12, all I cared about was kickball at recess.

Just last week, another colleague told me of a young man here in Texas who is 16 and 18 months sober.  He quit using drugs when he was 14 and 1/2.  The horrendous part of his story is that he had been popping more than a dozen Xanax every day for the past four years.

He was younger than the 6th graders when he began abusing drugs.

We have a long road to hoe.

In spite of everything we read about the prescription drug abuse epidemic (which it is), the rise of heroin abuse and the comeback of marijuana usage, alcohol remains the number one drug used by kids.  Why?  It’s so easy to obtain!

April is the 27th annual Alcohol Awareness Month sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). While the general purpose of the campaign is to educate the public about the chronic and addictive nature of alcohol and it’s progression as a disease, this month is a great time to talk with your kids and grandkids about alcohol.

Find out what they know.  As you’ll read in a moment, they know quite a lot.  Across the nation, the average age when a child first drinks alcohol, beyond a few sips, is 12 or 13.  So the 6th graders mentioned above may already be drinking regularly.

There’s no such thing as starting a conversation too soon when it comes to elementary school children.  If you need help getting the conversation started, there are resources.  NCADD has information on its website as does The Partnership at  You can also call the Partnership’s help line at 855-DRUGFREE.  Experienced licensed chemical dependency counselors can walk you through your conversation in advance.

Sobering thoughts

Back to my friend and the questions asked by the 6th grade class.

The questions may surprise you.  Whether you know the answers may surprise you too.

  1. 1.  What is the main reason people drink?
  2. 2.  Why are kids drinking alcohol if they know they can’t drink or know that they’ll get in trouble?
  3. 3.  Is it ok if a 6th grader has 2 sips of Vodka Grey Goose?
  4. 4.  Is it easy or hard to quit drinking alcohol?
  5. 5.  If you have good grades, are you less likely to drink?
  6. 6.  Why do the whites of the eyes turn yellow after drinking for a long time?
  7. 7.  If you have too much beer, will your eyes get watery?
  8. 8.  How do they make fake IDs that fool the cashier?
  9. 9.  What’s the strongest alcohol drink that a kid has died from?
  10. 10.  Is it possible to buy pure alcohol?
  11. 11.  Why would parents even think about drinking?
  12. 12.  Is it true that if you drink coffee you will get sober?
  13. 13.  Why do people drive drunk?
  14. 14.  Is it bad to put a drop of alcohol in a baby’s bottle?
  15. 15.  Can you get addicted to any alcohol?

Please, let this month be the time you educate yourself and then have a meaningful conversation with your kids.  You will all benefit.


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