Alcohol Use Among Adolescents

Did you know?

Like many other societies from the past and the present, alcohol use in the United States is considered a substance often used in socialization and celebration.

However, alcohol use and abuse among adolescents is a significant problem in the United States because of its negative effects on adolescent’s physiology, its contribution to violence and risky behaviors, and polydrug use. National surveys of adolescents revealed that 36% of 12th grade males and 24% of 12th grade females have experienced binge drinking in the United States, revealing that alcohol abuse among adolescents is a significant problem in the United States. The increase in alcohol use has become problematic within this population.

Physiological Impact

Adolescents who use and abuse alcohol may encounter severe consequences in physiological effects on the body. Since alcohol enters the bloodstream, several anatomical structures and physiological functions are directly influenced.  Some of the structures that are most negatively impacted include the brain, liver, and endocrine glands. Underage drinking can poses severe risks to an adolescent’s developing body, and may even result in death.

The adolescent brain is especially susceptible to some of the effects of alcohol. One area in particular, the prefrontal cortex—which is responsible for complex behaviors including planning, memory, decision making, and moderating social behavior—is still developing. Another structure in the brain responsible for memory and learning, the hippocampus, is greatly impacted in alcohol abusing adolescents. Studies revealed that the hippocampus is smaller in alcohol abusing teenagers compared to non-abusing teenagers. Underage drinking may impair crucial neurological development in this region of the brain as well as the hippocampus. Constant alcohol abuse can cause long-term effects on these individuals.

Another huge physiological danger to an adolescent who uses or abuses alcohol is alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death. Adolescents typically binge drink, which puts them at a greater risk for alcohol poisoning. In fact, the CDC states that 90% of all alcohol consumption by adolescents is in the form of binge drinking. Roughly, 200,000 teens end up in emergency rooms each year because of drinking problems. There are over 240 adolescent deaths every year attributed to falls, burns, drowning, and alcohol poisoning.

What We've Learned

Violence and risky behaviors

Violence and risky behaviors are also a problem associated with alcohol use and abuse by adolescents in the United States. For instance, 11th and 12th grade students are more likely to drive while drinking, which at some extent can contribute to the almost 50% of highway accidents in the country. In the same way, alcohol is also associated with violent crime such as acquaintance and date rape. According to the CDC, approximately 16% of high school female students reported physical violence and sexual violence from a dating partner, respectively. Research reflects this problematic pattern, particularly in relation to alcohol use and abuse by this age group.

Added to violence, risky behaviors such as driving under the influence of alcohol is another problem among the underage population in the United States. Boys, with female adolescents catching up, are five times more likely to be involved in a car accident even after having drank only two standard drinks. Given this, it is important to consider the problematic role that alcohol use and abuse by adolescents in the United States plays in terms of violence and risky behaviors that this age group engages in.

Additional Insight

Alcohol’s influence on poly-drug use

Alcohol abuse has been linked to polydrug use among adolescents, where more than one type of drug is used simultaneously or during a specified time-period. Many of these drugs include cannabis and tobacco use among adolescent polydrug use, with a lower, but still viable, percentage engaging in another extensive illicit drug use. Alcohol used in accordance with other substances can produce an intensified intoxication, explaining why some adolescents may engage in the practice. Co-use of alcohol with other abusive substances is a common practice which can result in dangerous metabolic interactions and dire social consequences.

One study suggests that adolescents engaging in polydrug use including alcohol were at a higher risk of not completing school. Compared to substance non-users and alcohol exclusive users, adolescent polydrug users had a statistically significant chance of not completing high school. Factors such as socioeconomic disadvantages and family dysfunction were controlled and accounted for, revealing the high impact that alcohol and polydrug use has on school completion for an adolescent.

According to the Gateway Drug Theory, it is suggested that some licit drugs, such as alcohol, serve as a precursor to the usage of other illicit substances, such as marijuana and cocaine. Additionally, alcohol abuse in adolescents was a strong indicator of future usage of other drugs such as tobacco and narcotics.
Alcohol abuse is damaging and dangerous, even more so if the person who is abusing it is either under age, or just recently became of age to drink legally. This article highlights the damaging impacts that alcohol abuse can have among adolescents. If you know an adolescent who might be suffering from alcohol use or abuse, we suggest you get help today and reach out to one of our representatives to help them start on the path to sobriety.

Intervention Services

There is no one right way to address a loved one who may be suffering from addiction. Often the person suffering from the addiction is not only in denial but is unwilling to listen to their family or loved ones. In situations such as these it may be beneficial to seek the help of an addiction professional. Swift Recovery Solutions has certified interventionists that will to meet with you and your loved one. Your dedicated counselor will work with you to determine if the help of an interventionist may be needed.

Family Medical Leave Act

One of the hardest aspects of dealing with addiction is finding the time to not only identify the solution, but to get time off to handle it. Your dedicated counselor will not only help streamline the paperwork but work hand in hand with your HR department to get you the time you need to get better. The FMLA is protection offered to you that guarantees your job will be held for you while you are getting the necessary treatment. Working with HR, Swift recovery solutions will take the burden off you or your loved one, giving you the confidence to start down the path of better happier lifestyle.

Your Health Insurance

Our experts walk you through understanding the complexities of your health insurance, including:

  • Deductible, Out of Pocket Costs, Medications, In network vs. out of network, policy limits and exclusions.
  • The financial burden associated with going to treatment can be daunting. SRS has sponsors and scholarships available to assist in covering the individuals portion of treatment expense’s.

Contact Swift

Reach out at or call us at +1.877.794.3848

Call Today