Alcohol Use in Teenagers – Parents Guide

Alcohol Use in Teenagers – Parents Guide

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

Parents Guide to Alcohol Use in Teenagers

Alcohol use in teenagers and young adults is on the rise. Teens are accessing alcohol earlier than ever and consuming more than previous levels. Many teenagers and young adults consume alcohol for the first time at home. It is the most widely available and used substance for young people to get their hands on. Nearly 11% of young people between the ages of 11 and 17 have reportedly consumed alcohol in the last 30 days1 One hundred percent of those young people claimed to have been drunk.

Interestingly, 61% of teens who drink alcohol do not buy alcohol. Many young people report that they take the alcohol without permission from their parents, steal it, or ask an adult to buy it for them. Most teens and young adults do not buy their own alcohol.

Alcohol use in teenagers is dangerous

Alcohol use in teenagers is very dangerous. It provides a number of risks to young people as they grow and mature. Consuming alcohol before turning 15 can significantly increases a teenager’s risk of long-term mental and physical health problems2 It also raises the risk of substance misuse disorder.

Statistically speaking, a teen that consumes alcohol is more likely to involve themselves in criminal activity. Teens also increase their chances of being involved in a fatal accident or being a victim of violent crime.

Alcohol consumption impairs a person’s judgment. In teens this can be magnified, especially if they are new to drinking alcohol. In the United States, 4,300 deaths per year are attributed to underage drinking.

Alcohol use in teenagers and addiction

Kids experience rapid changes to their minds, bodies, and social circles as they go through their teen years. Teenagers are inquisitive and more likely to take risks than they were just a few years before3

Alcohol use disorder AUD is a condition with no single cause to determine whether a young person will become addicted to alcohol or not. Some teens become addicted to alcohol, while others do not. There are several risk factors for teenagers and young adults that may play a role in the development of AUD.

Risk factors of teenage alcohol use and addiction include:

  • Family history
  • Genetics
  • Environment/social influences
  • Psychological
  • Personality Traits/Characteristics
  • Sensitivity to Alcohol
  • Mental Health Concerns and/or Co-occurring Conditions

Teenagers who grow up with parents suffering from addiction are four- to 10-times more likely to suffer from addiction.

Warning signs for AUD in teens and young adults


If you are concerned about alcohol use in teenagers, then be aware of the following warning signs:


  • Appearing drunk and intoxicated
  • Alcohol smell on the breath
  • Periods of black out and loss of memory
  • Falls, injuries, and self-harm
  • Vomiting and upset tummy
  • Changes in mood and behaviors
  • Increasingly angry outbursts, irritability, rage, and rebelliousness
  • Lying, manipulating, and stealing from home
  • Tearful, sad, or depression
  • Major changes in friend groups
  • Isolation or very few friends
  • Missing school and/or problems at school
  • Staying out past a curfew
  • Alcohol missing, watered down, stolen from home
  • Drinking in public areas
  • A loss of appetite or change in eating patterns
  • Frequent headaches, lethargy, and/or low energy
  • Slurred speech, coordination issues, and/or memory blanks
  • Loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed

Teens with alcohol use disorder do not suffer from all of the above issues. Your child may only exhibit a few of the issues on the list.

Issues caused by alcohol use in teenagers and young adults

Boys are more likely to begin drinking an early age, and historically speaking, teen boys typically drink more than girls. However, the trend is now reversing as more girls are drinking early and often in life. This is also leading to binge drinking in teen girls.

Teenagers who consume alcohol on a regularly basis are more likely to engage in sexual acts at an early age. The risk of transmitting sexual diseases increases when teens consume alcohol. Unplanned pregnancy is another risk teens take when alcohol and sex come together.

It isn’t just consensual sex that alcohol plays a part in. It is thought that alcohol may be involved in around 20% of sexual assaults amongst middle-school and high school-aged teens. The numbers rise to 29% of sexual assaults at parties or group gatherings where alcohol is consumed. Remarkably, the figure increases to nearly 50% of college or university-aged students. Nearly 50% of the world’s diagnosed STDs are reported in teens and young adults between the ages of 15- and 24-years-old.

Teenagers and young adults can find help and specialist care at residential rehab centers such as Paradigm Teen Treatment. A residential rehab center has professional staff members capable of helping with issues such as substance use disorder, addiction, and mental health. Teens and young adults can get the treatment they need and return to life alcohol-free.

Click to Reveal the Worlds Best Teen Rehab Clinics

References & Citations: Alcohol Use in Teenagers

  1. Romer D, Reyna VF, Satterthwaite TD. Beyond stereotypes of adolescent risk taking: Placing the adolescent brain in developmental context. Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2017;27:19–34. []
  2. Spear LP. Alcohol consumption in adolescence: a translational perspective. Curr Addict Rep. 2016;3:50–61. []
  3. Carbia C, López-Caneda E, Corral M, Cadaveira F. A systematic review of neuropsychological studies involving young binge drinkers. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 2018. []
  4. Giedd JN. The teen brain: alcohol use in teenagers. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. 2008;42(4):335–43. []
  5. Petanjek Z, Judas M, Simic G, Rasin MR, Uylings HB, Rakic P, et al. Extraordinary neoteny of synaptic spines in the human prefrontal cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2011;108(32):13281–6. []
  6. Baker STE, Lubman DI, Yücel M, Allen NB, Whittle S, Fulcher BD, et al. Developmental Changes in Brain Network Hub Connectivity in Late Adolescence. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2015;35(24):9078. []
  7. Inchley J, Currie D, Vieno A, Torsheim T, Ferreira-Borges C, Weber MM, et al. Adolescent alcohol-related behaviours: Trends and inequalities in the WHO European Region, 2002–2014. Copenhagen, Denmark: WHO Regional Office for Eurpose; 2018. 94 p. []
  8. Hanson KL, Cummins K, Tapert SF, Brown SA. Changes in neuropsychological functioning over 10 years following adolescent substance abuse treatment. Psychology of addictive behaviors : journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors. 2011;25(1):127–42. [PMC free article]
  9. Pfefferbaum A, Rohlfing T, Rosenbloom MJ, Chu W, Colrain IM, Sullivan EV. Variation in longitudinal trajectories of regional brain volumes of healthy men and women (ages 10 to 85 years) measured with atlas-based parcellation of MRI. NeuroImage. 2013;65:176–93. [PMC free article]
  10. Lopez-Caneda E, Holguin SR, Corral M, Doallo S, Cadaveira F. Evolution of the binge drinking pattern in college students: Neurophysiological correlates. Alcohol. 2014;48(5):407–18. []
  11. Attention Semenova S., impulsivity, and cognitive flexibility in adult male rats exposed to ethanol binge during adolescence as measured in the five-choice serial reaction time task: the effects of task and ethanol challenges. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012;219(2):433–42. []
  12. Swartzwelder HS. Adolescent intermittent alcohol exposure: deficits in object recognition memory and forebrain cholinergic markers. P Lo S One. 2015;10:e0140042. []
  13. O’Leary-Barrett M, Masse B, Pihl RO, Stewart SH, Se’guin JR, Conrod PJ. A cluster-randomised controlled trial evaluating the effects of delaying onset of adolescent substance abuse on cognitive development and addiction following a selective, personality-targeted intervention programme: the Co-Venture trial. Addiction. 2017;112(10):1871–81. [PubMed

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Alcohol Use in Teenagers, A Parents Guide
Article Name
Alcohol Use in Teenagers, A Parents Guide
The use of alcohol amongst teenagers and young adults is on the rise. Kids are accessing alcohol earlier than ever and consuming more than previous levels. Many teenagers and young adults consume alcohol for the first time at home. It is the most widely available and used substance for young people to get their hands on. Nearly 11% of young people between the ages of 11 and 17 have reportedly consumed alcohol in the last 30 days. One hundred percent of those young people claimed to have been drunk.
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