Parents of teenagers who do not think that their children have at least tried alcohol are fooling only themselves.   This fact is reinforced by various research studies.  In reality, what research is finding is that alcohol substance abuse in teenagers is increasing, and that drinking is starting at an earlier age than ever before.  These activities show widespread teen addiction.

A series of studies on adolescent alcohol abuse in the United States revealed that the average age that girls try their first drink is 13 years; while for boys it is 11 years old.  What is possibly more alarming is that the research also found that teenagers in the U.S. begin drinking on a regular basis at just under 16 years of age.

Starting Young Increases Long-Term Risks

In research conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), it was found that teens who start drinking before the age of 15 are much more likely to become dependent on alcohol than those who don’t start drinking until they reach the legal drinking age of 21 years.  Other alarming facts about early onset of teen addiction include the following facts:

  • A lifetime of alcohol abuse and problems is more likely for a teen that starts drinking at 14 years old.
  • At least 40% of teens that begin drinking at age 13 or younger are more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol later in life.  This number decreases to 10% for teens who don’t start drinking until at least 17 years old.
  • A 2007 study by Science Daily found that drinking habits and behavior started during a person’s teen years are more likely to persist throughout their lifetime.  Therefore, teen addiction can impact one’s whole life.

Teenage Drinking Can Lead to Other Risky Behavior

In a variety of research studies on the impact of teenage drinking, it was found that young drinkers tend to engage in other risky behaviors while drinking.

  • Teenage drinkers are much more likely to use cocaine than teens who have never taken a drink.  One study puts the figure at 50 times more likely.
  • Teenage drinkers are more likely to engage in “binge drinking”, defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in one episode of drinking.  A recent survey of high school seniors revealed that 25-30% stated that they had consumed five or more drinks in one episode of drinking during the previous two-week period.  In a 2002 report on binge drinking, it was revealed that 2.6 million binge drinkers were age 17 or younger.
  • Teens younger than 15 years old who have consumed alcohol are two times more likely to have sex than non-drinkers.
  • Approximately four out of ten teenagers who are sexually active and consume alcohol have had sexual relations with four or more partners, increasing their risk of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease.
  • One 2005 study indicates that large numbers of teens reported that they drove while under the influence of alcohol.

Teenage Drinking is Widespread

While no one wants to think that their teenager is engaging in any form of risky behavior, most would be startled to know how widespread the use of alcohol is with teenagers.  Many studies have been conducted on the subject, but some of the most alarming information comes from surveys of high school students reporting on their own behavior and teen addiction.

  • Among high school seniors, one in four reported using alcohol on a daily basis.
  • In one survey of high school seniors, half of them reported that they had consumed an alcoholic drink in the previous thirty days, while 32% reported they had been drunk at least once during that same time.
  • Among younger teens, 40% of high school freshmen reported they had consumed alcohol before they reached the age of 13.  Another study of freshmen indicated that 41% of them reported they had been drinking at least once during the previous month.
  • It appears that any age is susceptible to over indulging in alcohol.  One survey of teenagers indicated that 20% of eighth graders reported they had been drunk at least once, while the number for high school juniors was more than double that figure.

As alarming as these statistics are, many of the issues they highlight have been known for decades.  Yet nothing significant seems to be making much of an impact on reducing teenage alcohol substance abuse.  One of the most staggering statistics found is that 65% of the young people surveyed reported that they obtained their alcohol from a family member or friend.  Unfortunately, it appears that family members and friends are enabling this widespread epidemic of teenage alcohol abuse.