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Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-anon and Alateen: What About the Kids?

Some amazing organizations have developed in the last 100 years in the U.S. that have transformed the lives of millions.

For example, Alcoholics Anonymous has helped tens of millions of adults conquer their disease since 1935.  Prior to that time, alcoholism was seen as a death sentence.

Al-Anon and Alateen were founded in 1951 and help families of alcoholics cope with the disease of loved ones.

These three groups form the vast majority of recovery groups dealing with alcoholism. However, as great as these organizations are, they do not address what many people believe is the root of the alcoholism and addiction epidemic in this country — our children experimenting at an early age.

The average age when a young person begins to drink today is 13. This is an especially troubling statistic because studies have shown youth that being drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcoholism in their lifetimes than those who begin after the age of 21.

If we can reduce the chances of an individual developing alcoholism by 500% by discouraging underage drinking, this is a much needed area of focus in our country.

This is even more vital for families with alcoholism in their history. Studies have continually demonstrated that such children are at a much higher risk of developing the disease as adults than children without the disease in their DNA. Sons of alcoholic fathers, for example, are at a fourfold risk of developing the disease than children without alcoholism in their DNA.

So let’s look at an 11-year-old boy whose father is a recovering alcoholic. By combining the two studies above, I can argue that if this child is left to their own devices, and begins drinking in middle school, he is 20 times more likely to develop alcoholism than many of his classmates.

How many other diseases exist where we can identify such a specific audience and set of actions to reduce its likelihood by 20 times?

As a father of a 13-year-old  boy with alcoholism in our family, I certainly am going to use this data to our advantage by focusing NOW on education and prevention, instead of years from now on recovery, rehab and counseling.

If you have or know one of these children, do what millions of parents wish they had done — educate them on the disease hiding in their DNA. Educate them about the risks of drinking. Educate them about the risks of underage drinking.  Educate them that they may be different than their friends who can drink.  Educate them before it’s too late.

Although this area of preteen alcoholism education for children with the disease in their DNA is greatly lacking in our country, several preteen and teen addiction resources do exist today:

Marc Treitler and his family are the founders and creators of the family addiction education website and the authors and illustrators of My Dad Is an Alcoholic, What About Me?: A Pre-teen Guide to Conquering Addictive Genes.

Learn more about how to talk to your kids about substance abuse at You can also find and connect with the authors on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.


AA logo: By Anamix (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Marc Treitler

Marc enjoys spending time with his family and their new Yorkie puppy, Coco. He is an executive of a utility company, which keeps him very busy and allows him to travel throughout the country. When Marc isn’t working or on his phone, his hobbies include: embarrassing his wife and kids, convincing his daughter that boys are bad, passing his musical tastes to his son, cleaning-up puppy pee inside the house, and talking politics to anyone that will listen.