The Devastating Truth about Teen Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : November 16, 
| 4 Sources

Coping With Alcoholism And A Teenager
Explaining The Rise Of Alcoholism Among Teens
Alcoholism Statistics On Teens

Examining the causes of alcoholism in a teen, exploring treatment options for alcoholism in teens

Alcoholism and teenagers is a major and growing problem which many of us are not fully aware of. Underage drinking is prevalent in the United States and it could have harmful consequences.

teen-alcoholismBy Sabphoto

Alcoholism statistics and teen alcohol abuse statistics bear this out:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2006 to 2008 27.6 percent of persons aged 12 to 20 drank alcohol in the past month.

  • About half of junior high and senior high school students drink alcohol on a monthly basis.

  • 14% of teens have been intoxicated at least once in the past year.
  • Teens who have their first drink before they are fifteen are four times more likely to go on to develop alcoholism than those who put off drinking until they are 21 or older
  • Every year from 2006 to 2010, an estimated 4,300 fatalities among persons aged <21 years were caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
Underage drinking is a serious problem, with roots deep in our culture. The adverse effects of underage drinking could impact everyone—regardless of drinking status or age. But what is it exactly that causes teen alcoholism, what can we actively do about alcoholism and teenagers and can we do anything to prevent our children turning to alcohol?

Are you a teenager worried about your drinking? Take our adolescent alcoholism test to discover if you need help.

Are you a parent who wants to know if their child is abusing alcohol? Read signs of adolescent alcoholism.

What Causes Alcoholism In Teens

Alcoholism is a complex disease and there is no single causal factor, however, it is possible to see patterns in those teens who ultimately go on the develop alcoholism. The list below outlines the most common factors seen in teen alcoholism:

  • Family: low parental supervision and communication, family conflicts, inconsistent or severe parental discipline, and a family history of alcohol or drug abuse.

  • teen alcoholism
  • Individual: problems managing impulses, emotional instability, thrill-seeking behaviors, and perceiving the risk of using alcohol to be low.

  • Social: There is peer pressure to drink, to be a part of the crowd, assuming “it won't happen to me.”

  • Genetic: Alcoholic parents or grandparents increase the chances of developing an addiction to alcohol.

  • Gender: Males are more likely to develop alcoholism than females.

  • Age: Young people are at greater risk of developing alcoholism, especially if they start drinking by age 16 or sooner.

  • Psychological: People suffering from depression or low self-esteem may be more likely to develop drinking problems.

If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:

What Are The Effects of Teen Alcohol Abuse?

Drinking alcohol, and in particular binge drinking, has major impacts on a young person's life. They do not need to be a teen alcoholic to suffer from the negative effects of alcohol.

  • Alcohol can harm the growing brain, especially when teens drink a lot. Today we know that the brain continues to develop from birth through the teen years into the mid-20s.

  • Alcohol decreases teens' ability to pay attention.

  • Teens that drink alcohol are more likely to have problems with school work and discipline problems.

  • Alcohol impairs both mental and physical abilities, and it likewise reduces inhibitions. Thus, teens that use alcohol are more likely to become sexually active at earlier ages, to have sexual intercourse more often, and to have unprotected sex more than teens who do not drink.

  • The three leading causes of death for 15- to 24-year-olds are car crashes, homicides and suicides -- alcohol is a leading factor in all three.

  • Alcohol affects how well a teenage judges risk and makes sound decisions. For example, after drinking, a teen may see nothing wrong with driving a car.

  • Increases the risk of carrying out, or being a victim of, a physical or sexual assault.

teen alcohol abuse statistics

Teen Alcoholism Treatment

Did you know most alcoholism medication used today for alcoholism treatment has not been approved to treat alcoholism in people less than 18 years of age? This fact illustrates that alcoholism in teens needs to be treated differently to that of adults.

However, as with adults, there is more than one approach to treating alcoholism among teens, such as:

  • Recognizing drinking behavior and attempting to change this behavior so a teen doesn't feel the need to escape into alcohol.
  • Individualized alcohol counseling specifically to identify triggers for drinking, behavioral issues and environmental factors to try and help a teenager reduce or stop the use of alcohol altogether.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy that encourages a teen teenagers to increase their openness to therapy. Many teenagers are unwilling, or downright hostile to the idea of therapy. Motivating them to trust therapy is half the battle.
  • Tailored teen alcoholism treatment programs. They are many options for alcoholism treatment out there, not just 12 step programs. Read 'Stop Drinking Alcohol With AA' or 'AA Alternatives' for more on alcoholism treatment. If you want help and advice on how to choose a treatment center, then take a look at this useful alcohol treatment facilities checklist for choosing the right center for your needs.

Are You The Parent of a Teenager?

Do you want to know whether your child has a drinking problem?

There's no easy way to figure out if your teen is drinking alcohol regularly. As you'll see, many of the signs and symptoms of teen alcohol abuse can also be considered as typical adolescent behavior.

Find out the signs of adolescent alcoholism and see if you recognize any of the signs in your child.

If you noticed some of the signs in the list, I recommend you first read about alcoholism intervention.

"If you're unsure whether alcohol may be a problem, speak with one of our supportive counselors. With many having first-hand experience they understand the struggle. The free chat is confidential & they are available 24/7."

teen alcohol and drug abuse

Our FREE E-book The Parents Guide to Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Prevention is aimed at those parents who wish to stay abreast of their children's alcohol and drug use. The guide shows you how to spot the signs of substance abuse and what to do if you suspect your child is abusing alcohol and/or drugs. Catching teen drug and alcohol abuse early, can save a lot of heartache later. Your teenager may not thank you now, but a few years down the road they'll be truly grateful you intervened and saved them from a young life of addiction.

If you found this page helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Underage Drinking. October 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Underage Drinking. October 23, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current and Binge Drinking Among High School Students — United States, 1991–2015. May 12,2017.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Fall Semester—A Time for Parents To Discuss the Risks of College Drinking. August 2020.

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