Alcohol Abuse Among Teenagers


Teenage Alcoholism and Adolescent Alcohol Abuse. Unfortunately, according to the research literature, alcohol abuse among teenagers is increasing AND starting at earlier ages. This fact has major implications with respect to adolescent alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism from educational, preventative, and political vantage points.

Indeed, what is the best way to significantly reduce teenage alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism? In a related way, what kinds of teen alcohol abuse and teenage alcohol addiction educational and preventative programs would work best for today's youth?

How can we get the local, state, and the federal political leaders more actively involved in substantially diminishing the occurrence of teenage alcoholism and adolescent alcohol abuse? What is the best way to get students' parents more involved in monitoring the drinking behavior of their children?


Recent Research Findings About Alcohol Abuse Among Teenagers

Teenage Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Research. Research studies demonstrate that alcohol abuse among teenagers starts when they are very young. More precisely, the average age when teenagers first try alcohol is 13 years old for girls and 11 years old for boys.

The average age at which Americans begin drinking regularly, according to these studies is 15.9 years old.

According to teen alcohol abuse and alcoholism research undertaken by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), teens who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop a dependency on alcohol than those who begin drinking at 21 years of age.

In fact, according to Joseph A. Califano, Chairman and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, "a child who reaches age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using drugs is virtually certain never to do so."

In a 1996 report done by the Department of Health and Human Services, the following was discovered:

  1. Most teens don't know the strengths of different alcoholic drinks. For instance, the alcohol content is different in wine, beer, wine coolers, and whiskey. And to complicate matters, each form of alcoholic beverage can contain different amounts of alcohol. For example, some beer has a low percentage of alcohol while others have two or three times the alcoholic content.

  2. 33% of the teens surveyed did not understand the intoxicating effects of alcohol.

  3. 80% of teens do not know that a shot of whiskey has the same amount of alcohol as a 12-ounce can or bottle of beer.

Teenage Drinking is A Social Function

Research has revealed that teen drinking is mainly a social activity. In fact the teen alcohol abuse and alcoholism research reveals that teens rarely drink alone.

Stated differently, the more a teen drinks, the more likely their drinking will be with other teens. There are, however, many other reasons besides peer influence that lead to teen drinking.

Indeed, the social environment and media influences may also play a key role in a teen's decision to drink. These external factors, on the other hand, do not explain the whole picture.

That is, according to teenage alcohol abuse and drug abuse experts, various personality traits have been identified that can lead to alcohol abuse by teens.

For instance, teens who have personalities that can be described as under-controlled, sensation or thrill seeking, or impulsive are considered at risk for alcohol abuse.

Other teens who openly reject authority figures or who can't wait to grow up often drink excessively. Not only this, but emotional problems can also lead to drug and alcohol use.

In fact, an adolescent alcohol abuse study done in the mid-1990s revealed that two-thirds of the teens surveyed stated that they use drugs and alcohol to help them forget their problems.

One of the main psychological problems faced by teens that can lead to drinking is the dysfunctional nature of their family lifestyle. Teens with parents who face financial or relationship problems may start drinking for comfort.

Not only this, but if one or both of the teens' parents are alcoholic, according to one study, teens may be up to seven times more likely to become alcoholics themselves as compared with teens who have nonalcoholic parents.

What Makes Up One Drink?

Since one drink is defined as containing one-half of an ounce of pure ethyl alcohol, each of the following is considered to be one drink:

  • 10 ounces to 12 ounces of beer at 4% to 5% alcohol content

  • 8 ounces to 12 ounces of wine cooler at 4% to 5% alcohol content

  • 4 ounces to 5 ounces of table wine at 9% to 12% alcohol content

  • 2.5 ounces of fortified wine at 20% alcohol content

  • 1.25 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits at 40% alcohol content

  • 1 ounce of 100 proof distilled spirits at 50% alcohol content

Conclusion: Alcohol Abuse Among Teenagers

Teen Alcohol Abuse. As discussed above, research studies have shown that alcohol abuse among teenagers starts at a very early age.


Perhaps the key statistic along these lines is the following teenage alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism information from the NIAAA: teens who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop a dependency on alcohol than those who begin drinking at 21 years of age.

Armed with this information, our educators, parents, and political leaders need to educate our young people on the dangers of alcohol abuse and alcoholism BEFORE they become teenagers.

Please see Alcohol Abuse and Teenage Statistics for more information about teen alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism.