Teenage Alcohol Abuse Statistics in America

Teen alcohol

There is a common misconception that alcohol abuse looks the same, regardless of age. When thinking of a teenager with a substance abuse problem, parents will mistakenly use the same yardstick to measure the severity as they would an adult. The reality is that all alcohol use by underage drinkers is a serious problem, and qualifies as abuse.

Public health policy, more than any other, determines the legal drinking age in the United States. The age is set at 21 because studies have found teens who drink before that age are more likely to develop an alcohol dependence problem. Teen brains are also still in the developing stage before that point, and alcohol use can cause long term damage.

Unfortunately, teen alcohol abuse remains a prevalent problem in America to this day, in spite of the years of research and campaigns to curb it.

What The Stats Say About Teen Alcohol Use

We can find some startling statistics on this endemic problem. According to the CDC, 11% of all alcohol drank in the US is by those age 12 to 20. Of that alcohol, 90% is consumed as part of a binge drinking episode, leading to 4,300 related underage drinking deaths every year.

Surveys among high school students found that 33% self reported that they had at least one alcoholic beverage within the last month, and 18% had binge drank during that same period. Perhaps more alarming is that 8% of those asked had drove after drinking, and 20% had been passengers in cars driven by those who had been consuming alcohol.

Both boys and girls report alcohol abuse. However, according to a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, girls between the ages of 12 and 14 are more likely to drink. Boys catch up between the ages of 16 and 17, which are the highest levels of alcohol abuse in those under 18.

Some good news is that statistics show a decline in underage drinking since the 1990’s. The bad news is that, as the figures above show, the rates are still very high. As are the stakes for those teens who become a part of those statistics.

Talking To Your Teen About Alcohol

Peer pressure will always be a factor in a teen’s decision to consume alcohol. The draw of doing what others in their age group are doing is strong. But while you can’t always protect them from temptation, you can offer them the tools they need to say ‘no, thanks’. It all begins with sitting down and having an open, frank discussion on the dangers and consequences of alcohol abuse.

This is not a platform for fear mongering, and any attempt to frighten them out of drinking will probably backfire. You want them to take the threat seriously, and that means giving them real information, not platitudes and grave warnings. The statistics provided in this article, as well as others found in the above linked websites, will give them a clear picture of what can happen when teenagers drink alcohol.

Perhaps the most crucial facts you can provide them is the one about their brain. The adolescent and teen years are important ones for the development of brain matter and function. When they do anything that chemically alters that process, it can interrupt development and lead to long term damage. Coordination, focus, memory and even the emotional maturity can be forever impacted.

Ask them if they are really willing to risk all of that, just to be able to drink a couple of years early? That doesn’t even take into account the legal ramifications, the trouble that the people providing the alcohol can get into, or the way it could harm their grades, future, and social relationships.

Getting Help as a Parent

You may still be feeling a little overwhelmed by this whole topic, and how to address it. If your teen is already drinking, or engaging in other harmful behaviors, the issue can be even more stressful. But there are resources that can assist you in learning the parenting tools that will guide you, and your teen, through the process. A good parenting course can teach you all you need to know to get over the many hurdles associated with raising a teenager.

Find out more about teen drug and alcohol abuse, as well as other related topics, at Parent Learning Center.

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