Nearly 90 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds recall having their first alcoholic beverage after their 11th birthday, and teens nationwide now average 5.5 days of drinking each month, with 16 percent reporting black-out spells due to heavy drinking, according to a newly released survey sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The survey was commissioned for Child Health Month 1998, which focuses on alcohol abuse prevention.

Subjects were 600 teens, ages 16 to 19 years, who answered 5-minute, 14-question telephone interviews between Aug. 24 and Sept. 3. Parental consent was obtained for the 16- and 17-year-old minors, while the 18- and 19-year-olds agreed to participate in a study "of this nature" before being surveyed. One drink, for study purposes, was defined as one can of beer, one glass of wine, one cocktail or one shot of liquor.

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