What should teens know about alcohol?

Alcohol is the most frequently used drug by teenagers in the United States. About half of junior high and senior high school students drink alcohol on a monthly basis, and 14% of teens have been intoxicated at least once in the past year. Nearly 8% of teens who drink say they drink at least five or more alcoholic drinks in a row (binge drink). 

Just a few of the many dangerous effects of alcohol use in teens include the following:

  • Alcohol decreases teens' ability to pay attention.
  • Teens who have experienced alcohol withdrawal tend to have difficulties with memory.
  • In contrast to adults, teens tend to abuse alcohol with other substances, usually marijuana.
  • Male teens who drink heavily tend to complete fewer years of education compared to male teens who do not.
  • The younger a person is when they begin drinking, the more likely they are to develop a problem with alcohol.
  • Each year, almost 2,000 people under the age of 21 years die in car crashes in which underage drinking is involved. Alcohol is involved in nearly half of all violent deaths involving teens.
  • More than three times the number of eighth-grade girls who drink heavily said they have attempted suicide compared to girls in that grade who do not drink.
  • Intoxication is associated with suicide attempts using more lethal methods, and positive blood alcohol levels are often found in people who complete suicide.
  • Teens who drink are more likely to engage in sexual activity, have unprotected sex, have sex with a stranger, or be the victim or perpetrator of a sexual assault.
  • Excess alcohol use can cause or mask other emotional problems, like anxiety or depression.
  • Drinking in excess can lead to the use of other drugs, like marijuana, cocaine, or heroin.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.