Adolescent Alcoholism


Research studies have demonstrated that adolescent alcoholism and adolescent alcohol abuse are correlated to the age at which youth start drinking alcohol and to the amount and the frequency of their drinking.

With this in mind, it must be pointed out that the average age when American adolescents first try alcohol is 11 years old for boys and 13 years old for girls.

In addition, the average age at which American adolescents begin drinking regularly is 15.9 years old.

The point: the earlier adolescents drink, the more they drink, and the more frequently they drink, the greater the probability that they will suffer from risky alcohol side effects such as adolescent alcohol abuse and adolescent alcoholism.


Adolescent Alcoholism and Recent Research Findings

According to research undertaken by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, adolescents who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to experience serious alcohol side effects such as alcohol dependency than those who begin drinking at 21 years of age.

In fact, according to Joseph A. Califano, Chairman and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, "a child who reaches age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using drugs is virtually certain never to do so."

In a 1996 report done by the Department of Health and Human Services, the following was discovered:

  1. 80% of adolescents do not know that a shot of whiskey has the same amount of alcohol as a 12-ounce can or bottle of beer.

  2. 33% of the adolescents surveyed did not understand the intoxicating effects of alcohol.

  3. Most adolescents don't know the strengths of different alcoholic drinks. For instance, the alcohol content is different in wine, beer, wine coolers, and whiskey. And to complicate matters, each type of alcoholic beverage can contain different amounts of alcohol. For example, some beer has a low percentage of alcohol while others have two or three times the alcoholic content.

Adolescent Alcoholism: A Social Activity

Research has revealed that adolescent drinking and is basically a social activity. In fact, adolescents rarely drink alone.

Stated differently, the more adolescents drink, the more likely their drinking will be with other adolescents and the more likely that these teens and pre-teens will engage in adolescent alcohol abuse or alcoholism and suffer from unhealthy and unsafe alcohol side effects.

There are, however, many other reasons besides peer influence that lead to adolescent alcohol abuse and adolescent alcoholism.

Adolescent Alcoholism and Personality Traits

Indeed, the media and the social environment may also play a key role in an adolescent's decision to drink.

These external factors, though influential, do not, however explain the entire picture.

More to the point, according to alcoholism and drug abuse experts, various personality traits have been identified that can result in adolescent alcohol abuse and adolescent alcoholism.

For instance, adolescents who have personalities that can be described as under-controlled, impulsive, or thrill seeking, are considered to be at risk for alcohol abuse and/or alcoholism.

Adolescent Alcoholism and Psychological Problems

Other adolescents who openly reject authority figures or who can't wait to grow up frequently drink heavily.

In addition, psychological problems can also lead to drug and alcohol use.

In fact, a drug and alcoholism study undertaken in the mid-1990s found that two-thirds of the adolescents surveyed stated that they use drugs and alcohol to help them forget their problems.

One of the main emotional problems faced by adolescents that can result in drinking is the dysfunctional makeup of their home life.

Adolescents with parents who face mental health, relationship, financial, or legal problems may resort to drinking for comfort.

Not only this, but if one or both of the adolescents' parents are alcoholic, according to the research literature, adolescents may be up to seven times more likely to experience harmful alcohol side effects such as alcohol abuse or alcoholism as compared with adolescents who have parents who are not alcoholic.

More Adolescent Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse Statistics

In some fairly recent studies the following statistics about adolescents and alcohol drinking were discovered:

  • Ten percent of adolescents who start drinking alcohol after 17 years of age will develop alcohol dependence.

  • Alcohol kills 6-1/2 times more adolescents than all of the other illicit drugs combined.

  • Adolescents in grades 7 through 12 consume 35% of the wine coolers sold in the United States.

  • Lifetime alcohol abuse is greatest for those who begin drinking at the age of 14.

  • In a one year period of time, 10.6 million adolescents in grades seven through twelve consumed more than one billion cans of been.

  • Adolescents who binge drink receive C's or lower twice as often as teens who do not abuse alcohol.

  • When asked, 33% of sixth and ninth graders said that they get their alcohol from their own homes.

  • 40 percent of teens who begin drinking at 13 years of age or younger will develop an alcohol addiction later in life.

  • One in four high school seniors reported drinking some kind of alcoholic beverage on a daily basis.

  • Adolescents who drink alcohol are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than adolescents who never consume alcohol.

  • Half of the adolescents in one survey stated that in the 30 days before the survey, they drank alcohol and one-third of them said that they got drunk on at least one occasion.

  • In one survey it was found that 10 million youth between the ages of 12 and 20 drank some sort of alcohol in the month prior to the survey.

  • Adolescents have stated that other people's homes is the most common setting for drinking.

  • Adolescents who consume numerous alcoholic drinks in one sitting (known as "binge drinking") skip school twice as often as adolescents who do no engage in binge drinking.

  • Almost one-third of high school seniors surveyed stated that they had five or more alcoholic drinks during one drinking episode during the past two-week period.

What Makes Up One Drink?

Since most adolescents don't know the strengths of different alcoholic drinks, we are providing the following information regarding "what makes up one drink."

Due to the fact that one drink is defined as containing one-half of an ounce of pure ethyl alcohol, each of the following is considered to be one drink:

  • 1 ounce of 100 proof distilled spirits at 50% alcohol content

  • 2.5 ounces of fortified wine at 20% alcohol content

  • 4 ounces to 5 ounces of table wine at 9% to 12% alcohol content

  • 8 ounces to 12 ounces of wine cooler at 4% to 5% alcohol content

  • 1.25 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits at 40% alcohol content

  • 10 ounces to 12 ounces of beer at 4% to 5% alcohol content

Conclusion: Adolescent Alcoholism

Research studies have revealed the following adolescent alcoholism facts.

First, adolescent alcoholism and adolescent alcohol abuse have been increasing as well as occurring at earlier ages.


Second, adolescents who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop a dependency on alcohol than those who begin drinking at 21 years of age.

Equipped with this information, our educators, political leaders, parents, and community leaders need to educate and inform our young people about the dangers and the unhealthy consequences of alcohol abuse and alcoholism BEFORE they experience damaging alcohol side effects such as adolescent alcohol abuse and/or alcohol dependency.