Alcoholism in Teenagers

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : October 04, 
| 4 Sources

Research studies on alcoholism in teenagers show that the earlier an adolescent begins to drink, the greater the chances for alcohol abuse or long-term dependence on the drug.

Data from a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) indicates that teens who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependency than those who start consuming at 21 years of age.

A survey of students in grades 8, 10 and 12, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), amplifies the problem of underage drinking and why alcoholism in teenagers continues to be a pervasive problem among today’s youth.

  • Alcohol Consumption: 26% of 8th graders, 40% of 10th graders, and 51% of 12th graders reported drinking alcohol during the past month.
  • Binge Drinking: 16% of 8th graders, 25% of 10th graders, and 30% of 12th graders reported binge drinking defined as having five or more drinks on a single occasion for a man or four or more drinks for a woman) during the past two weeks.

In another survey of nearly 5,000 high school seniors and dropouts, 80% reported getting drunk, drinking and driving, or binge drinking.

Moreover, greater than half of respondents said their drinking made them feel ill, miss work or school, be involved in a car crash, or get arrested.

In a commentary on Youth Drinking: Risk Factors and Consequences, NIAA Director Enoch Gordis, M.D. emphasized that alcohol is the most widely used and abused drug among youth and causes serious and potentially life-threatening problems.

He further emphasizes that youth drinking requires significant attention… because of the extensive human and economic impact of alcohol use by teens.

High risk factors for alcoholism in teenagers include early onset of drinking and substance abuse, close family members with the disease, and deficits in visual and auditory processing, according to an article written by Shirley Y. Hill, Ph.D. and published in the August 2000 issue of Biological Psychiatry.

In addition to genetic factors and how early in life drinking begins, teenager alcoholism may be influenced by the behavior of parents, peers and other role models.

The NIAAA reports that a teen’s susceptibility to advertising and psychological needs also play roles in the manifestation of dependence.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism in Teenagers

If you have a teenager, be alert to signs and symptoms provided by Mayo Clinic that may indicate a problem with alcohol:

  • Less or no interest in activities and hobbies
  • Bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and memory lapses
  • Difficulties or changes in relationships with friends, often characterized by joining a new crowd
  • Declining grades and problems in school
  • Frequent mood changes and defensive behavior
alcoholism-in-teenagersGive a shoutout to Deniz Demirci

What are the Effects of Alcoholism in Teenagers?

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, alcohol abuse in teenagers can result in:

  • Physical injuries due to accidents, such as car crashes or falls
  • Loss of driver's license and education opportunity
  • Social isolation from friends and family members
  • Expulsion from school for behavior problems

How to Prevent Alcoholism in Teenagers

Prevention is the key to stopping alcoholism in teenagers. The more you know about alcohol abuse, the more you can do to help your teenager avoid this serious problem.

The Mayo Clinic recommends talking with teens who may be at risk for alcoholism if they exhibit any of the symptoms mentioned previously. Be sure to include questions about their friends and what activities occupy their time during school or on weekends.

Also, keep up-to-date on health issues that affect youth such as sexual activity, skin infections and other medical problems.

Resist pressure from family members, peers and even some educators who might try to convince you that underage drinking is okay at social events or parties where alcohol will be served.

With the proper information, knowledge and guidance, teenagers can learn how to avoid alcoholism.

Treatment of Alcoholism in Teenagers

When alcoholism in teenagers involves the use of illegal drugs, teens may be sent to an addiction rehabilitation center that offers intensive treatment for withdrawal symptoms and methods of achieving long-term sobriety.

Since family support is so important, parents should be involved in the early stage of rehab. Counseling sessions for the entire family will help every member learn not only how to address their own problems but also cope with stress levels related to accepting one's child as an alcoholic.

If school performance or grades are affected by teen drinking, students can take advantage of special programs that accommodate their educational needs while fostering a sober lifestyle.

Depending on the severity of alcoholism in teenagers, treatment may last anywhere from 30 days to several years. Teenagers are encouraged to manage their disease and avoid second-hand drinking.

Alcoholism is a serious problem in the United States and carries with it a multitude of far-reaching consequences if left untreated.


The specific treatment for alcoholism in teenagers is different from that for adults because of varying physical and psychological conditions. Alcoholism in teenagers requires professional intervention. When alcoholism in teens becomes an addiction, the result can be tragic if not addressed promptly.

Save a Life Today!

If your loved one or someone you know is battling with teenage alcoholism, it's never too late to stop them and get them on the right track. Contact a dedicated treatment provider today.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

For more information on teenage alcoholism and treatment options, please contact us.


Ellickson, P.L., et al. Teenagers and alcohol misuse in the United States: By any definition, it's a big problem. Addiction 91(10):1489-1503, 1996.

More on alcoholism in teenagers on our main teenage alcoholism page 

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