Alcohol and Adolescents
The overuse or abuse of alcohol or other drugs is called substance abuse. Acohol is the most commonly abused by children and young adults ages 12-17. Alcohol abuse causes over 100,000 deaths in the United States each year. For teenagers, alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death.
Approximately one-half of all high school seniors in the United States admit to having used alcohol or an illegal drug. A survey of college students showed that 44% admitted to binge drinking; for males, this meant five or more drinks in a row; for females, four or more. Even casual alcohol use can lead to death as the consequence of behavior, such as driving under the influence.
Putting teens at risk
Teenagers and young adults who use alcohol are at a higher risk of:
- Experimenting with other illegal drugs
- Engaging in other risk-taking behaviors, such as drinking and driving or riding with someone who has been drinking
- Exposure to high-risk sexual behavior
- Poor school performance, which could lead to dropping out
- Developing serious health problems
- Loss of behavior control, which can lead to serious destruction of friendship, family support and legal challenges
Factors that increase alcohol use
Some factors increase a teen's risk for using alcohol or other illegal drugs. They include:
- Peer influence, which weights heavily in the choice to use alcohol (especially if there is a desire to "fit in")
- Promotion of alcohol use by the media and entertainment industry
- A family history of alcohol use
- Misconceptions about being a sign of adulthood or maturity or that is necessary to drink in order to have fun at social gatherings
What to do if you're at risk
If you feel you are at risk for alcohol abuse, speak with your parents, other relatives, your school counselor or your doctor. If you don't get the help you need at first, keep trying. Alcohol abuse can destroy families, friendships and lives.