Teenage Alcohol Abuse Statistics and Facts

Summer Presents Higher Risk of Alcohol Abuse

Ages 12 - 20 drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S.

Teenage Alcohol Abuse Rises in Summer

May 26, 2016

Surviving another school year is definitely something to celebrate. With the summer holiday upon us, the professional staff at Elk River Treatment Program (ERTP) ask parents to be mindful of the many pitfalls that await a teenager that suddenly has more free time and less supervision. This is the opportune time for an adolescent or teenager to experiment with one of the most available and widely used substances available: Alcohol. 

Counselors at ERTP remind parents to set clear boundaries regarding alcohol consumption and talk about the dangers of alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse (NIH), the average age for a first drink if 14 and most underage drinking is in the form of binge drinking.

Risks of Underage Drinking

Discuss with your child the risks of underage drinking:

  • 4,358 young people die each year in alcohol-related deaths as a result of underage drinking. Deaths occur in car crashes, alcohol poisoning, falls, drowning and suicide.
  • Approximately 188,000 emergency room visits by people under 21 in 2011 were alcohol-related injuries.
  •  Drinking can lead to risky behavior such as drinking and driving, unprotected sex, and aggressive or violent behavior.
  • Teens are more likely to be involved in a physical or sexual assault after drinking – either as victim or perpetrator.
  •  According to NIH, research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.

What Can Parents Do?

Penny Baker has counseled adolescents, teens and families since 1992 and is ERTP's Clinical Director. She has seen the toll that underage drinking takes on children and families. She urges parents to keep an open dialogue with their children. Keep an open mind and remain calm, she advises, because your child is likely to be more receptive if you remain objective and curious rather than lecturing or brow beating.

To prompt conversation, ask questions that require more than a yes or no response. Rather than "how was the party?" You might ask, "Tell me about the party tonight." Don't forget to use active listening and reflect back to your child what you heard them say. An example is, "What I am hearing is that you’re uncomfortable when other kids start talking about beer. Is that right?”

Discuss the negative effects of alcohol, and what that means in terms of mental and physical health, safety and making good decisions. Talk about the long-term effects. If there is a family history of addiction, discuss your child’s elevated risk if they choose to drink.

Discuss what might happen if your child consumes alcohol and the consequences of his/her actions. Make sure that they know that they can call you if they feel unsafe. Discuss the positive differences in consequences when he/she asks for help rather than risking “getting caught.”

Let your child know you understand that teenage years are tough and everyone struggles at times. Alcohol or substances are not healthy coping mechanisms.

Party Rules

If your teen is invited to a party, you will want to know the location of the party and call the hosting parents in advance to verify the occasion, location and details about supervision. Indicate your expectations to your child and the parent hosting the party. If the activity seems inappropriate, express concern and keep your child home. Also, assure your child that they can call you to be picked up whenever needed.

In parent training sessions at Elk River's residential treatment program for adolescents, counselors stress that parents must set clear boundaries and be clear about logical consequences when rules are broken. It’s best to have a written home contract to re-visit weekly or monthly, especially in the summer months when children have more unsupervised time.  

Websites such as www.drugfree.org have more helpful information about raising teens in today’s environment. Some other resources for parents include:

Learn More About Underage Drinking

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has published a very comprehensive guide on underage drinking. If you are a parent of a child that drinks, this guide is well worth your time. To download, please click here or on the image below.