What You Need to Know about Teen Alcohol Use
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, an ideal opportunity to provide information about teen alcohol use, the effects of alcohol on teen health, and steps parents can take to mitigate the potential harms of alcohol use.
While it is important to be aware of the risks associated with alcohol use among teens, current trends gives us reason to be optimistic about this issue!
- Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among teens.
Approximately 16% of American youth aged 12-20 have consumed alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 90% of the alcohol consumed by people under the age of 21 in the U.S. is consumed in the form of binge drinking.
- But most teens don’t drink (and they disapprove of those who do).
The current data shows recent improvement compared to past rates of teen alcohol use. According to the 2022 Monitoring the Future survey, most teens do not drink, and the rate of teen alcohol use has declined steadily over time. Binge drinking rates are at an all-time low among teens, and peer disapproval of binge drinking is at an all-time high.
- Teen alcohol use can have both short and long-term effects.
Short-term effects of teen alcohol use can include decreased inhibitions, slurred speech, impaired judgment, and difficulty walking. These effects can lead to risky behaviors such as driving under the influence, unprotected sex, and violence. In addition, alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal, can occur when a person drinks a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time.
Long-term effects of teen alcohol use can include addiction, damage to the developing brain, and an increased risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Alcohol can also interfere with a teen’s social and emotional development, as well as their academic and career success. There are also serious physical health risks associated with teen alcohol use. These include an increased risk of liver disease, cancer, and heart disease, as well as a higher risk of accidents and injuries.
- Prevention and monitoring strategies work.
It’s important for parents, educators, and other adults to talk to teens about the dangers of alcohol and to set a good example by not drinking excessively or engaging in other risky behaviors. Parents should also be aware of signs that their child may be drinking, such as changes in behavior, grades, or friends.
The changing social mindset in teens around alcohol, combined with an open and educational dialog from trusted peers and adults, serves as an effective prevention strategy. There is hope that the current and future generations of teens will be significantly less likely to engage in alcohol use.
“Just How Does Drinking Affect the Underage Brain?” McLean Hospital.
“What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain & Health” (2022), Huberman Lab Podcast. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkS1pkKpILY
“Underage Drinking”, Center for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm
Drug Free Clubs of America is on a mission to reduce the impacts of drug use in youth. Across the nation, drug and alcohol use is on the rise among teens. We provide students with practical tools and techniques to navigate peer pressure and choose a healthy lifestyle. Partnering with schools and communities, we offer preventative programming to meet students where they are. Through randomized drug testing, educational resources, a positive outlet, and a supportive community, we are changing school cultures and reducing alcohol, marijuana, vaping, and other detrimental activities among our members and the entire school body. Drug Free Clubs of America has over 5,000 student and faculty/staff members and Clubs in over 50 schools in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.