Alcohol and Teens

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Alcohol and teens facts

  • Alcoholism is a substance-use disorder in which the sufferer has problems managing how much alcohol they drink and their lives as a result.
  • The symptoms of alcoholism include tolerance to alcohol, withdrawal episodes, using more alcohol for longer periods of time, and problems managing life issues due to alcohol.
  • Alcoholism is caused by a number of individual, family, genetic, and social factors rather than by any one cause.
  • Although a number of genes play a role in the development of alcoholism, this is a disease in which other factors more strongly influence its occurrence.
  • Alcoholism is diagnosed by evaluating whether the individual shows a number of symptoms of problem drinking on a regular basis.
  • Alcoholism treatment is usually treated based on the stage of the addiction, ranging from management of risk factors and education to intensive residential treatment followed by long-term outpatient care and support.

How much alcohol do teens use?

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Alcohol is the most frequently used drug by teenagers in the United States. Significant statistics regarding alcohol use in teens include that about half of junior high and senior high school students drink alcohol on a monthly basis, and 14% of teens have been intoxicated at least once in the past year. Nearly 8% of teens who drink say they drink at least five or more alcoholic drinks in a row (binge drink).

What are the dangerous effects of alcohol use in teens?

Just a few of the many dangers of alcohol use in teens include the following:

  • Alcohol decreases teens' ability to pay attention.
  • Teens who have experienced alcohol withdrawal tend to have difficulties with memory.
  • The teenage brain that has been exposed to alcohol is at risk for being smaller in certain parts.
  • In contrast to adults, teens tend to abuse alcohol with other substances, usually marijuana.
  • Male teens who drink heavily tend to complete fewer years of education compared to male teens who do not.
  • The younger a person is when they begin drinking, the more likely they are to develop a problem with alcohol.
  • Each year, almost 2,000 people under the age of 21 die in car crashes in which underage drinking is involved. Alcohol is involved in nearly half of all violent deaths involving youth.
  • In 2010, 56% of drivers 15 to 20 years of age who were killed in motor-vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt.
  • More than three times the number of eighth-grade girls who drink heavily said they have attempted suicide compared to girls in that grade who do not drink.
  • Intoxication is associated with suicide attempts using more lethal methods, and positive blood alcohol levels are often found in people who complete suicide.
  • Teens who drink are more likely to engage in sexual activity, have unprotected sex, have sex with a stranger, or be the victim or perpetrator of a sexual assault.
  • Excess alcohol use can cause or mask other emotional problems, like anxiety or depression.
  • Drinking in excess can lead to the use of other drugs, like marijuana, cocaine, or heroin.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/12/2014

Patient Comments

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Alcohol and Teens - Personal Experience Question: At what age did you start drinking? Was peer pressure a contributing factor? Please share your story.
Alcohol and Teens - Signs and Symptoms Question: What were the signs and symptoms associated with alcohol intoxication in you, a friend or your child?
Alcohol and Teens - Parental Prevention Question: As a parent of a teen, how do you try to prevent alcohol use and/or abuse?
Alcohol and Teens - Causes and Risks Question: If known, what were the risk factors for developing alcoholism as a teenager?
Alcohol and Teens - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment were helpful in treating your teen alcohol problems?
Alcohol and Teens - Help for Teens Question: Was there a counselor, group, or organization that helped you with your alcohol problems? Please share your experience.

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