Teenage Alcoholism

This article is an overview on teenage alcoholism including teen alcohol statistics and facts, preventing teenage alcoholism, warning signs of teen drinking, effects of teen drinking, teen binge drinking, treatment of teenage alcoholism, and more...

Teenage Alcoholism Overview

This article introduces a set of nine articles on teen alcoholism by providing an overview and some background information on alcohol, the most widely used and abused drug among American youth. Topics covered include statistics and facts about teen alcoholism, prevention, causes and related behaviors/issues, warning signs, effects, treatment, and special articles on drinking games and binge drinking.

As citizens of the United States, we live in a country in which alcohol is inexpensive and nearby for all but the most rural of us, whether available for purchase at liquor stores, grocery stores, drug stores, or gas stations, or at bars and pubs. In addition to its cheapness and proximity, we are also bombarded with alcohol advertising, with - according to a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - $4 billion spent each year, not only on radio and television programs, but in other sites where young people are apt to see them, such as Internet sites, billboards, and retail stores. Newer products, aimed specifically at young users, such as sweetened drinks and alcopops are targeted for young users and are enticing for them, and youth are aware of the alcohol content in typical household products like mouthwash and vanilla extract.

In all 50 states, the legal drinking age is now 21, but there are exceptions in some states. For example, it may be illegal for the underage person to purchase alcohol, but not to consume it, or consumption may be permitted in certain special circumstances, usually in a family or religious setting (and other stipulations may apply as well). The number of states with no exception has increased over time. Despite the law, some children begin drinking even prior to the teen years, beginning as young as 9.

With regard to teeanage drinking and driving, in addition to the national law, now passed in every state, that a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater is illegal when driving for adults. In addition, special lower BACs have been enacted for teens to make as little as .02 BAC, .01 BAC, or even .00 BAC  (referred to as “Zero Tolerance”) the legal limit. These measures, combined with the introduction of graduated licenses, are aimed at making the roads safer both for teens and for their potential victims.

Several important terms are used to discuss alcohol use. Binging is sometimes used to refer to “5 or more drinks in one sitting/on one occasion,” but sometimes a distinction is made between women (4 or more drinks) and men (5 or more drinks), because women’s bodies handle alcohol differently. Heavy use refers to binging on at least 5 different days within a 30 day period. Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence may be present in the same individual, but they have separate definitions and can occur separately. There are different definitions available, but in general, abuse is used to refer to harmful use without necessarily including tolerance, withdrawal, and other behaviors that constitute dependence.

Alcohol abuse and dependence result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors, as well as individual choice. Certainly being accustomed to drinking as not only a social outlet, but also as a stress-reliever and an antidote - whether the example is set by family, friends, or others - can make it seem a logical, desirable choice. Other issues and behaviors - such as low grades, smoking, and illegal drug use have proven relationships, but ones that are not completely explained. Alcoholism does tend to run in families, and people are innately more or less sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Genetic make-up may mix with environmental factors in a variety of ways, and new research is emerging every year that brings greater understanding to this area.


  • udetc.org
  • webmd.com
  • oas.samhsa.gov
  • pubs.niaaa.nih.gov
  • webmd.com
  • surgeongeneral.gov
  • alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov


  • alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov
  • acep.org
  • iihs.org
  • udetc.org

Related Article: Alcohol Abuse Statistics and Facts >>