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Teen Alcohol Abuse Statistics

Teenage alcohol abuse continues to be a major concern. In fact, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among American teenagers. Like adults, teenagers might drink alcohol in an attempt to cope with stress, depression or trauma, to enhance other substances, in response to peer pressure, or out of curiosity. Whatever the reason, the potential risks and negative consequences are the same.

In 2019, approximately 414,000 teens aged 12-17 qualified as having an alcohol use disorder (AUD); of this number, 2.1% were females and and 1.3% were males. In the same year, nearly 2 of every 100 young people between the ages of 12 and 13 had reported drinking alcohol in the past month. 24.6% of American teens 14-15 reported drinking at least one alcoholic beverage in 2019 as well. When the age range extends to include young adults who are still legally underage, the total number of teens and young people who disclosed that they’d had more than “just a few sips” of alcohol skyrockets to roughly 7.0 million. These numbers illustrate an alarming trend of underage drinking, especially considering that while those underage might only consume 4.0% of the nation’s alcohol, more than 90% of all the alcohol they do consume is through binge drinking. This is defined by a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% which is usually reached by at least 4 drinks in the span of 2 hours for females and 5 or more for males. Research shows, however, that these numbers look slightly different in youth, dependent upon their age and size; for girls, it’s about 3 and for boys it can range from 3-5 drinks.

Short-Term Effects of Teenage Alcohol Abuse

The CDC notes that teenagers who begin abusing alcohol or other substances are more likely to develop developmental challenge and health problems later in life, and they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors. Teens who drink alcohol can expect to experience or commit:

  • Feeling hungover
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor coordination
  • Blacking out
  • Impaired judgement
  • Irritability
  • Problems breathing
  • Unintended self-harm or harm to others
  • Driving under the influence/arrest
  • Property damage

Teenagers who drink alcohol often compromise their academic progress by exposing themselves to people who do not have their best interests at heart. Additionally, teens who drink may behave recklessly and risk sexual assault, physical violence, and aggression, becoming victims of their alcohol use. Trouble with the law resulting from unruly behavior can blemish a teen’s record and follow them into adulthood.

Long-Term Effects Of Teenage Alcohol Abuse

Teens who are vulnerable to alcohol abuse risk developing an alcohol use disorder. The more someone is exposed to alcohol, the more he or she increase their alcohol tolerance. For example, a teenager who once felt “buzzed” from 2 drinks eventually may need more to feel intoxicated. Eventually, he or she may increase the number of drinks they consume, engaging in binge drinking or heavy drinking. At this point, the teenager may feel withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop drinking cold turkey. Some long-term effects of teenage alcohol abuse include:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • High blood pressure
  • Ulcers
  • Throat or mouth cancer
  • Brain damage
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Malnutrition
  • Nerve damage

Furthermore, teens who abuse alcohol or other substances can become parents who abuse substances and expose their children to substance abuse. A child who grows up in a home where they witness substance abuse is more likely to abuse substances, perpetuating the addiction cycle.

Signs And Symptoms Of Teenage Drinking

Since alcohol changes the brain’s chemical composition, frequent heavy drinking can trigger an alcohol dependence. The signs and symptoms of teenage alcohol abuse help parents make decisions to get help for their teenagers. The signs that a teenager is abusing alcohol include:

  • Making excuses for drinking.
  • Isolating themselves from family.
  • Frequently suffering hangovers.
  • Drinking alone.
  • Convincing older friends to buy them alcohol.
  • Neglecting responsibilities.
  • Experimenting with other drugs.
  • Frequently talking about getting drunk and going to parties.
  • Stealing.
  • Incessantly asking for money.

In some cases, parents and friends can stage an intervention to help a teenager come to terms with a drinking problem and get help.

Medications For Treating Teenage Alcohol Abuse

While alcohol abuse has no overnight cure, there are medications which can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms in teenagers who strive to get sober. For example, Disulfiram discourages alcohol use by making a person feel sick and have headaches when they drink, Acamprosate helps people in recovery withstand insomnia, depression, and anxiety during withdrawal, and Topiramate alleviates migraines, treats alcohol dependence, and reduces drinking urges. Medication can play an important part in the process of treating a teenager for alcohol abuse.

Help Your Teen Fight Alcoholism

If your teen battles alcohol abuse, you may feel disappointed, frightened, and concerned, but there is support available to help your teenager recover. Contact a treatment provider today to learn more about different rehab options for alcohol abuse.