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Teen Drinking

Is teenage drinking a problem?

Millions of American teenagers drink alcohol. Over half of high school seniors drink at least once a week. Alcohol is the most common drug used by teenagers.

Alcohol has special risks for this age group:

  • Alcohol can lead to other drug use.
  • Alcohol-related traffic crashes are a major cause of death among teens. Alcohol use also increases the risk of death by drowning, suicide, and homicide.
  • Teens who use alcohol are more likely to have sex at earlier ages, to have sex more often, and to have unprotected sex than are teens who do not drink.
  • Young people who drink are more likely than others to be victims of violent crime, including rape, assault, and robbery.
  • Teenagers who begin drinking before adulthood are much more likely to become dependent on alcohol.

Why do teens drink?

Teens drink for many reasons. Some grow up seeing their parents or other adults drinking. They also see drinking in movies and television or in magazine ads. Seeing alcohol use makes it more likely that teens will drink.

There is often pressure from friends or classmates to drink. A teen may drink to fit in with friends, or to appear more popular or mature. Teens may drink to reduce anxiety or feel more confident.

A teen having problems with anxiety or depression may use alcohol to deal with these feelings. Other things that may cause a teen to drink are:

  • Other family members with drinking problems
  • The divorce of parents or other family stress
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • The death of a family member or close friend

What are signs of teenage drinking?

These signs may mean that a teenager has a serious drinking problem:

  • Avoiding family or friends
  • Staying out of school, cutting classes, or falling grades
  • Losing interest in activities or hobbies
  • Hanging out with a new, often older, crowd
  • Frequent hangovers, constant tiredness, confusion, depression, or not remembering where he or she was or what happened
  • Getting into fights or arguing constantly with parents

How can I help my teen?

  • Establish a loving, trusting relationship with your child. Make it easy for your teen to talk honestly with you. Talk with your child about alcohol facts, reasons not to drink, and ways to avoid drinking in difficult situations.
  • Keep tabs on your teen's activities, and join with other parents in making common policies about teen alcohol use.
  • Encourage your teen to avoid situations where people are likely to use drugs or alcohol. Talk about how to handle things when alcohol is available.
  • Make sure your teen has a way to get to and from the party and knows he can call for a ride home at any time. Remind him to never ride with someone who has been drinking or has used drugs.
  • Develop family rules about teen drinking and establish consequences.
  • Set a good example regarding your own alcohol use. Encourage your child to develop healthy friendships and fun alternatives to drinking.
  • Know the warning signs of a teen drinking problem and get help for your child right away.

It may be hard for you to admit that your teen is out of control with alcohol. Sometimes it helps to have your teen talk with a school counselor, healthcare provider, or a member of the clergy. Other professionals who work with teens with drinking problems can be found at hospitals, mental health centers, alcohol abuse treatment centers, or in private offices. Alcoholics Anonymous works with teens who want to stop drinking. To learn more about teenage drinking, call your local Alcoholics Anonymous Chapter or the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence at 800-NCA-CALL.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-04-19
Last reviewed: 2012-04-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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