Underage drinking statistics tell the story of America's battle with alcoholism. Knowing how many young people are drinking encourages governments and communities to step up their efforts for prevention and treatment.
At the same time, each alcohol abuse situation is unique and deserves individualized attention. If you believe you may have a drinking problem or if you suspect a friend or family member may be abusing alcohol, you can find help. The following statistics reveal the ways youths are harming themselves and what can be done to recognize the signs of an underage drinking problem.
Extent of Underage Drinking in the United States
Approximately one out of every ten alcoholic drinks in the U.S.A. is consumed illegally. Despite age 21 being the legal drinking age, children as young as 12 years old have engaged in under-age alcoholism. In fact, more than 70 percent of teens have consumed at least one alcoholic beverage by the time they reach age 18, which is still under the legal age.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention presents some alarming underage drinking statistics for 2009. When high school students were asked about their behaviors during the previous 30 days:
- Four out of ten had drunk beer, wine, spirits, or liquor (before their 21st birthdays)
- One of those four people had driven after drinking alcohol
- One out of four had engaged in binge drinking, which is having five or more drinks during the same occasion
- Just as many, approximately one out of four, had ridden in a vehicle with a drunk driver
Binge drinking, in particular, is a problem for teens. Studies on underage drinkers reveal that teenagers do not drink as frequently as adults, but they do tend to drink more in a single setting. More than 90 percent of under age alcoholism is related to binge drinking.
If you fall into any of these categories, you may be unaware of the consequences or you may be afraid of what will happen if you stop drinking. By calling us, you can speak with a knowledgeable counselor who can evaluate your situation confidentially and suggest treatment options.
What Happens When Teens Drink Too Much?
Many children and young adults do not understand the consequences of drinking too much. The social aspects of drinking, whether for rebellion, self-medication, or peer acceptance, often mask the underlying damage caused by alcohol.
Underage drinking leads to numerous physical, mental, and social issues. Because children and teens are still maturing, even one alcoholic drink can stunt or prevent crucial development within the brain and body. Ongoing drinking episodes and binge drinking can lead to large-scale problems and lifelong consequences. Some of the most common potential issues include:
- Trouble remembering specific events or whole periods of time
- Physical assault
- Sexual assault, as a perpetrator or a victim
- Pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases from unplanned and unprotected sex
- Failing grades and absences from school
- Social isolation and rejection
- Hangovers, liver disease, and alcohol-related cancers
- Legal prosecution and jail time
- Car crashes, burns, falls, or drowning
- Abuse of other illegal or prescription drugs for a bigger high
- Suicide, manslaughter, or murder
- Death from alcohol poisoning
Approximately 190,000 people visited hospital emergency rooms in 2008 due to injuries and conditions linked to underage drinking.
Ways to Recognize a Drinking Problem
Most people have trouble admitting they have an alcohol problem. Whether they are adults, teenagers, or children, they either do not see the signs themselves or they are in denial about the situation. The following signs can help detect whether you or someone you love has an underage drinking problem:
- Unusual changes in mood, including irritability, sudden flares of temper, and defensive words or actions
- Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, stumbling, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating
- Rebellion against school rules, family rules, or social conventions
- Sudden switch to friends who are unknown to the parents or guardians
- Abnormal problems in school, such as low grades, attendance and tardiness issues, and disciplinary actions
- Low energy, lack of involvement, and a general sloppy appearance
- Presence of alcohol in a child's room, backpack, locker, vehicle, or other places of importance
- Smelling alcohol on the person's breath
The appearance of a single warning sign may be no cause for alarm, but a person meeting several of the criteria may benefit from a professional evaluation. To speak with an advisor about your unique situation, please call us. A simple phone call can prevent another person from becoming an additional victim in underage drinking statistics.