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November 28, 1980

Adolescence and Alcohol

Author Affiliations

University of Kansas Medical Center Kansas City

JAMA. 1980;244(21):2459-2460. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310210059036

"Heck, I'm just going on 15," observes the hero of a Roger Miller song,* preparing for his first "taste of sin." The sin comes in a Mason jar, "homemade and brought to school" by classmates.

The effects are startling. After "a big old sip," he does "a double back flip."

... swallowed it with a smile,... I run ten miles.

Burns your tummy, don't you know... Makes you want to holler heidy-ho!

"First time for everything," the boy concludes, and though his "ears still ring," he's ready for more alcohol. And he has more—behind barns, on 4-H field trips, in taverns with boozy uncles.

In Miller's song are themes found in this book: the satisfying surreptitiousness of sin; the influence of adults on youthful drinking behavior; the discovery of alcohol, its burn and antic effects; the reenactment of a ritual as old as the need for adventure, shared pleasure, and warm