Alcohol abuse is defined as the habitual misuse of alcohol, or drinking to excess. Alcohol abuse is also a type of alcohol use disorder—when a person’s drinking causes problems in work, school, or at home. Alcohol abuse may cause a teen to become involved in dangerous situations, which include legal problems, and may result in alcoholism (alcohol dependence).
What Is Teenage Alcohol Abuse?
In the United States, by the age of 18, about 60 percent of teens have tried at least one drink. Among teenagers, alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the country.
In addition to potential legal ramifications, alcohol abuse can be harmful to teens because the teenage brain is not fully developed. The pleasure and reward-seeking part of the brain develops faster than impulse control.
When teens drink alcohol, they are six times more likely to become hooked, or drink to the point of blackout, than people who begin drinking at or after the age of 21, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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What Age Does The Average Teen Start Drinking Alcohol?
In a study by Columbia University, researchers found that the average teenage male starts drinking at 11 years old, while the average teenage female starts at 13.
Some teens might start drinking out of their parent’s liquor cabinet, at an overnight party, or even at a school function. Some teen novice drinkers may have someone of age purchase alcohol for them, including some parents. In any case, most teenagers do not start drinking alone, but with their peers.
How Many Teens Abuse Alcohol?
In the United States, there are approximately 10 million people ages 12 to 20 who consume alcohol. Teenagers are responsible for about 11 percent of the alcohol consumed in the country, and 90 percent of the alcohol they consume is through binge drinking.
Binge drinking is considered high-risk drinking; it’s drinking to get drunk. Binge drinking often exceeds (at least) five drinks per occasion for men, and (at least) four drinks per occasion for women. Binge drinking increases the risk of alcohol poisoning, and other risky behaviors like sexual promiscuity.
A high school survey conducted by the CDC reported that 18 percent of high school students took part in binge drinking in the last 30 days.
How Many Teens Are Injured Or Die From Alcohol Abuse?
Not every teen who drinks is going to binge drink, but drinking tends to invoke high-risk behavior, which can result in trying other substances like heroin, cocaine, or prescription drugs. High-risk drinking and risky behaviors as a result of alcohol are also known to cause injury and in some cases fatalities.
In 2010, underage drinking was responsible for 189,000 trips to the emergency room. Every year, excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for the deaths of over 4,300 teenagers.
How Many Teens Drink And Drive?
The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, eight percent drove after drinking alcohol, and 20 percent got in the car with a driver who had been drinking.
Teenagers lack some decision-making skills, and might not have as much experience to recognize the danger presented by drinking and driving. Alcohol-related car accidents kill an annual average of 1,580 teenagers in the U.S.
Teen Alcohol Abuse And Sexual Assault Statistics
An estimated 25 percent of American women have experienced sexual assault at some point in their lives; of those, approximately half were related to alcohol abuse.
From the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “approximately 50 percent of college women have been sexually assaulted, and 27 percent have experienced rape or attempted rape; in contrast, 25 percent of college men have committed sexual assault, and 8 percent have committed rape or attempted rape.”
Signs A Teenager Might Be Abusing Alcohol
As parents, siblings, peers, neighbors, and teachers, it’s important to be able to recognize teenage drinking. That way you can get a person help, or alcohol treatment before their drinking gets worse.
Some of the most common signs of teen alcohol abuse are:
- mood changes: temper tantrums, irritability, and defensiveness
- school problems: poor attendance, low grades, and/or getting in trouble
- staying out past curfew
- changing friends without introducing new friends
- feelings of apathy: sloppy appearance, a lack of involvement in former interests, and general low energy
- finding alcohol in your child’s room, backpack, car, or smelling alcohol on his or her breath
- memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech
- constantly sneaking around, especially late at night
Outside factors can also worsen the likelihood of teen alcohol abuse. A person’s genetics, home environment, community, and psychological background can all contribute to how teens perceive alcohol, and in turn, how they handle social situations and opportunities to drink.
Helping A Teenager Who Struggles With Alcohol Abuse
One of the first steps to helping someone stop using alcohol is to tell them that you’re worried about their drinking. Playing the blame game, pointing fingers, and getting angry doesn’t always help, yet asking a teenager if they think they have a problem with alcohol may be necessary.
One of the foundations to a healthy recovery, and often the first step of overcoming an addiction, is admitting that there’s a problem. The next step might be a medical detoxification, inpatient treatment, or outpatient treatment.
“In 2002, 1.4 million youth met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence, but only 227,000 actually received any treatment for these problems,” (NIAAA).
As parents of a teen who abuses alcohol, it might also help to reach out to the community or to the people in your teen’s life. Some of the various people and groups you may turn to to help your teen stop using alcohol are:
- Lifelong friends
- School counselors
- Family therapist
- Support groups
- Alcohol treatment center
If you believe your teenager is abusing alcohol, one of the most important things you can do is avoid turning a blind eye to it. Instead, you can help your teen overcome alcohol abuse by finding the appropriate treatment, which may include an inpatient drug rehab program.