In the United States, teenage drinking is a huge health problem, costing the economy around $24 billion each year.
Among teenagers in America, alcohol is the most abused substance, and this poses vast risks to their health and the health of those around them. From deaths on the roads to aggressive behavior and property damage, teen drinking is a huge problem for the nation, and a growing concern for parents.
Let’s take a look at some underage drinking facts and what risks teenagers are posing to themselves and the wider society.
How Big a Problem is Teenage Drinking?
Over the last 40 years, alcohol advertisements have increased by a whopping 400%. Promoted in between TV shows, in magazines, and splashed across billboards, everywhere you look the “glamor” of drinking is in your face. And with the rise of social media, all age groups are being exposed to these ads.
Add to this the fact that alcohol is for sale in almost every restaurant and store across America, and it’s clear kids are surrounded by alcohol throughout their entire youth.
Despite the minimum drinking age being set at 21 years old, this doesn’t seem to restrict teens’ access to alcohol. Whether it’s from a relative, a friend’s house, or taken from your kitchen cupboard when you’re not looking, the ongoing issue of teenage drinking is largely down to the ease with which youngsters can get their hands on all sorts of booze.
In fact, of all the alcohol consumed in America, 11% is consumed by people who are 12 to 20 years old. Perhaps more worryingly still, over 90% of this is drank during a “binge.”
Other key facts from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that over a period of 30 days, high school students had:
- Drank some alcohol (33%)
- Binge drank (18%)
- Driven after drinking alcohol (8%)
- Gotten in a car with a driver who’d consumed alcohol (20%)
The Rise of Binge Drinking
Compared to adults, the majority of teens will consume more alcohol in one sitting – a problem that’s called “binge drinking.” This excessive consumption of alcohol (10 or more drinks) during a short timeframe is a common scenario at high school/college social events or parties.
Peer pressure, the excitement of drinking, and the availability of booze means teens can drink to excess. And this can cause dangerous levels of intoxication.
Key binge drinking facts include:
- 1 in 7 teenagers binge on alcohol
- 1 in 100 parents believe their teenage son or daughter binge drinks
- In 2010, excessive drinking among underage youths caused over 4,300 deaths
Underage Drinking and Driving
Among these worrying statics are those that relate to drunk driving.
Statistics demonstrate that a young driver (someone aged 16 to 20) is 17 times more likely to be killed in a car crash when they have a 0.08% concentration of alcohol in their blood compared to when they haven’t had anything to drink.
Nevertheless, a tenth of teens in high school admit to drunk driving. And 1 in 5 teen drivers who have been involved in a fatal crash had traces of alcohol in their system.
Being intoxicated with alcohol causes a number of impairments including slowed reactions, affected motor functions, distorted perception, and blurry vision. Alcohol can even induce blackouts where someone becomes completely unaware of their actions or surroundings.
A teen that’s consumed too much alcohol may not remember their night out, or they may wake up in the emergency room after a car accident. Some might not wake up at all or may wake up to hear they’ve injured or killed other road users, passengers, or pedestrians.
Other Risks of Teenage Drinking
Every time your teen decides to have a drink, the possibility of alcohol poisoning, car accidents, and other injuries increases dramatically. But the risks involved in teen drinking can vary dramatically, meaning a teenager’s life (and those around them) can be impacted in a whole host of ways through alcohol abuse.
The effects and risks of alcohol for teenagers include unplanned pregnancy, other drug abuse, addiction, being arrested, serious injuries, mental health issues, social difficulties, and being the victim of sexual or physical assault.
In high school, kids can face a number of problems if they drink. When a child drinks, they’re 5 times more likely to become a high school dropout than someone who doesn’t drink. But even if they don’t drop out, they can be expelled or suspended if they’re found with alcohol or to be under the influence of alcohol. It may also cost them friendships, opportunities, and relationships.
While it’s scary to find out your teen drinks alcohol (regardless of the amount being consumed), it’s important you don’t ignore any signs of alcohol abuse or addiction and seek the right help. Don’t dismiss teenage drinking as “the norm” and seek the help they need to combat their drinking.