Alcohol Abuse in Teens

Even though the dangers of adolescent alcohol abuse are well-documented, adults too often turn a blind eye to alcohol consumption by teenagers. In reality, there are many dangerous effects of alcohol use in teens, and alcohol remains the greatest threat to health and loss of life for underage Americans. Here are a few noteworthy examples:

  • Excessive drinking can cause and or/mask other emotional problems (depression, anxiety, etc.)
  • Underage alcohol consumption increases the chances of both homicide and suicide
  • Approximately 17% of high schoolers will ride in a car with a driver who is drunk or actively drinking
  • A person who begins drinking as a teenager is four times more likely to develop a dependency to alcohol
  • Teen alcohol abuse is the leading cause of death in those under age 21
  • Excess drinking kills over 4,300 minors each year
  • Teenagers between the ages of 12-20 account for 11% of all alcohol consumption in the US, and 90% of that is the result of binge drinking
  • In 2013 alone, there were 119,000 emergency rooms visits by people aged 12 to 21, for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol*

Known as one of the leading public health problems in the country, alcohol is the most frequently abused drug by teenagers in the United States.  According to reports, nearly half of junior and senior high school students not only drink on a monthly basis, but approximately 8% of adolescents who admit to drinking say they drink at least five or more alcohol drinks in one sitting. In fact, underage drinkers on average consume more drinks per drinking episode than adult drinkers, often in binge drinking occasions. Moreover, research shows the average age for the first use of alcohol in 2003 was 14 years old, compared to 17.5 years of age in 1965. All told, underage drinking costs the United States economy around $24 billion per year, making adolescent alcohol abuse a national public health issue.

The Delray Center for Healing | Outpatient Teen Alcohol Abuse Treatment

The transition from adolescence to young adulthood is littered with dramatic physical, emotional and lifestyle changes and puberty has been linked with alcohol use.  As the brain keeps developing well into our twenties, the proclivity towards risk-taking can result in experimentation with alcohol.  Unfortunately, the combination of alcohol abuse while the brain continues to develop can cause long-lasting cognitive and emotional damage.

Often the visible abuse of alcohol by adolescents is accompanied by other self-destructive behaviors, and may in fact be a cry for help. In some cases, teenagers who are abusing alcohol may have a mental health condition that has not been properly diagnosed or treated, and should be fully evaluated by a psychiatrist, ideally one specializing in both addiction and adolescence. Outpatient therapy, both group and individual, is usually the appropriate intervention when they are signs of burgeoning alcohol abuse. Children who drink excessively are more likely to increase their alcohol intake when they enter college and adulthood, if it is not addressed early enough.


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Since 2003, the Delray Center for Healing has provided exceptional psychiatric and therapeutic care for mental health, eating, and substance use disorders. To learn more about our philosophy and treatment approach, download our free e-book, “Psychiatry Redefined,” written by our founder and medical director, Raul J. Rodriguez, MD.