Teenage Drinking Facts: What Parents Should Know

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : October 04, 
| 4 Sources

Among the most obvious teenage drinking facts is that underage drinking is an adverse public health issue in the United States. If we are to believe alcoholism statistics, teenage drinking and teen alcoholism are on the rise.  A lot of young people are suffering from consequences of drinking excessively, at an early age.

You can blame whatever or whoever you want for this increase... an increasingly individualistic society, the education system, a lack of parental discipline and alcohol advertising are some of the scapegoats that people wheel out.

I am not interested in blame and neither should parents be. Their main concern is to ensure that their children do not abuse alcohol and, if they do, to discourage them from doing so. This is because the effects of teenage drinking, as illustrated by the teenage drinking facts below, are truly worrying.

"If your loved one is struggling with alcoholism and you want to speak to someone that understands, call our support assistants. As former addicts they are empathetic to the struggle you are facing. The conversation is free & 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.

Teenage Drinking Facts
Teenage Drinking Statistics

  • In the U.S., 2000 people under the age of 21 die in car crashes in which alcohol is involved every year.
  • Teens who abuse alcohol are more likely to have unsafe sex than those who do not.
  • Teens who drink heavily are three times more likely to try and hurt themselves (self-harm, attempt suicide etc.) than those who don't.
  • Young people who abuse alcohol are more likely to have behavioral/emotional issues than those who don't. These issues might include stealing, fighting, skipping school, drink driving and so on.
  • Alcohol is a GATEWAY DRUG. This means that those who abuse it are then more likely to go on to abuse other drugs than those who don't.

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.

Teenage Drinking Facts
Teenage Alcoholism vs. Teenage Alcohol Abuse

To abuse alcohol means to use it in a harmful way.

And yet, teen alcohol abuse is not the same as teen alcoholism.

Nevertheless, early initiation of drinking alcohol is linked with the development of an alcohol use disorder (AUD) later in life.

The effects of teenage drinking, however, means that an adolescent is more likely to develop alcohol dependence later in life.

Those who begin drinking before they are 15 years old are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who don't start before the age of 21.

In any one month, according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (U.S.) 31% of high school students binge drink at least once.

They also state that 11.4% of the alcohol drunk in the U.S. is consumed by teenagers.

Remember, though, it is important to keep things in perspective.

A large minority of teenagers drink but they will not all go on to develop alcoholism.

In fact, most of them won't.

If your son or daughter does abuse alcohol on occasion then you are perfectly justified in being alarmed. But for many young people abusing alcohol is just an adolescent phase.

Generally they will come out the other side as right as rain.

Obviously, though, it would be better if teenagers didn't drink and there are things you can do to try and discourage your child from abusing alcohol in the first place.

Teenage Drinking Facts
Preventing Teenage Drinking

There are certain steps you can take to try and reduce the likelihood that a teenager will abuse alcohol.

These will only reduce the likelihood, you cannot stop a teenager from abusing alcohol if they are dead set on getting drunk.

Before we take a look at them first a few don'ts:

  • DON'T put the alcohol in your house into a cabinet/bar/cupboard, lock the door and say,"don't touch this". Remember prohibition in the 1920's, it didn't work. Like a red rag to a bull
  • DON'T tell a teenager that alcohol is bad. Because it isn't if used safely. It is also beneficial to your health. It smacks of hypocrisy if adults drink and tell their children that it is bad.
  • DON'T treat your child like an idiot if you do find they have been abusing alcohol.Remember when you were a kid? Education and information about the consequences and problems associated with binge drinking will prove far more beneficial then petty punishments.
Now a few do's:

  • DO treat teenagers with the respect and intelligence they deserve. They are able to process information and weigh up pros and cons. Give them the facts about alcohol and alcohol abuse. Alcohol is not a tool of the devil. If used sensibly it is great. If used to excess it will damage you. And it can lead to alcoholism if allowed to.
  • DO use alcohol sensibly yourself. Drink in front of teenagers by all means but try not to abuse alcohol in front of them. Generally the behavior of our parents is what pre-adolescents see as normal and correct. This is the behavior they will subconsciously adopt as they progress into adulthood. So if you abuse alcohol so will they.
  • DO expose them to alcohol. By this I mean let them drink alcohol (if it is legal in your state/country) in your home. This might sound strange but research has shown that if teenagers are allowed to have one drink on occasion (maybe once a month or less-NO MORE)then they will generally have a more mature attitude to alcohol than those who are forbidden it. In France it is common for children to have diluted wine when eating with the family. They have one of the lowest incidences of teenage alcohol abuse in the world! A Connection?.... I think so.

  • DO encourage your child to have a variety of leisure activities. As they say, variety is the spice of life. Teens who are obsessive about a particular activity are more likely to abuse alcohol or other substances. Also, if your child is engaged in many activities they are much less likely to get bored. Boredom is a trigger for alcohol abuse.
  • DO set boundaries for your children. teenagers who know what their parents want from them are much less likely to abuse alcohol- goes without saying really.

Teenage Drinking Facts
Why do Teens Drink?

Why do kids drink? There are an infinite amount of reasons, every teen is different, but the most common are:

You can't possibly protect a teenager from all the situations that might trigger them to abuse alcohol.

All you can do is educate and inform them as to the dangers of drinking excessively. You can't live your child's life.

Teenage Drinking Facts
Signs of Teenage Drinking

The following signs could be symptoms of a teenager having abused alcohol:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • The smell of alcohol on their breath
  • Unusually argumentative
  • Overly relaxed perhaps a lack of coordination
  • Flushed skin
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood swings
  • Avoiding communicating with you (for fear of you seeing their intoxicated state)
Read adolescent alcoholism for more on the signs of teenage alcohol abuse.

If you know a teenager well, then it is not difficult to see in their behavior if they have been drinking or not.

Teenage Drinking Facts
What do you do If a Teen is Drinking?

If you have read this page, teenage drinking facts, and you suspect that your child is abusing alcohol then it is essential you do something about it.


I am not saying send them off into alcohol rehab for a month. But what I am saying you, or someone they feel comfortable with, needs to talk to them. It is never too soon to begin talking to your teenager about underage alcohol drinking.

Abusing alcohol, as outlined above, is a symptom of a child in trouble. Maybe they have self-esteem issues, are being bullied or suffer from depression.

It is better to deal with any underlying problems now rather than a teenager goes on to develop alcoholism.

If you suspect your child or a teenager you know is suffering from alcoholism (check my page on teen alcoholism for symptoms of teenage alcoholism) then it is time to look at treatment options for alcoholism.

If you have read teenage drinking facts and think you or someone close to you wants or needs help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:

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. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/underage-drinking

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Alert: Underage Drinking. January 2006. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA67/AA67.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Underage Drinking. October 23, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm

Mayo Clinic. Underage drinking: Talking to your teen about alcohol. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/teen-drinking/art-20047947

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