Research studies demonstrate that teen alcoholism is correlated to the age at which they start drinking and
to the frequency and amount of their drinking.
More specifically, the average age when teenagers first try alcohol is 13 years old for girls and 11 years
old for boys. Moreover, the average age at which Americans begin drinking regularly is 15.9 years old.
The earlier teens drink, the more they drink, and the more often they drink, the higher the probability that
they will suffer from teen alcoholism.
Teen Alcoholism Facts by the Department of Health and Human
Recently, a major research study was undertaken by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism (NIAAA) that focused specifically on teenage drinking.
One of the main findings of this research was that teens 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.
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."
The NIAAA research was corroborated by a 1996 report done by the Department of Health and Human Services that
demonstrated the following teenager drinking statistics:
- Most teens 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 form 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.
- 33% of the teens surveyed did not understand the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
- 80% of teens do not know that a shot of whiskey has the same amount of alcohol as a 12-ounce can or bottle
Social Pressure and Teen Alcoholism
Research has revealed that teen drinking is mainly a social activity. In fact, teens rarely drink alone.
Stated differently, the more a teen drinks, the more likely their drinking will be with other teens. There are,
however, many other reasons besides peer influence that lead to teen drinking.
Indeed, the social environment and media influences may also play a key role in a teen's decision to drink.
These external factors, on the other hand, do not explain the whole picture.
That is, according to alcohol and drug addiction experts, various personality traits have been identified that
can lead to alcohol abuse by teens.
For instance, teens who have personalities that can be described as under-controlled, sensation or thrill
seeking, or impulsive are considered at risk for alcohol abuse.
Other teens who openly reject authority figures or who can't wait to grow up often drink excessively. Not only
this, but emotional problems can also lead to drug and alcohol use.
In fact, a study done in the mid-1990s revealed that two-thirds of the teens surveyed stated that they use drugs
and alcohol to help them forget their problems.
Dysfunctional Families and Teen Alcoholism
One of the main psychological problems faced by teens that can lead to drinking is the dysfunctional nature of
their family lifestyle. Teens with parents who face financial or relationship problems may start drinking for
Not only this, but if one or both of the teens' parents are alcoholic, according to one study, teens may be up
to seven times more likely to become alcoholics themselves as compared with teens who have nonalcoholic
What Makes Up One Drink?
Since 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:
- 10 ounces to 12 ounces of beer at 4% to 5% alcohol content
- 8 ounces to 12 ounces of wine cooler at 4% to 5% alcohol content
- 4 ounces to 5 ounces of table wine at 9% to 12% alcohol content
- 2.5 ounces of fortified wine at 20% alcohol content
- 1.25 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits at 40% alcohol content
- 1 ounce of 100 proof distilled spirits at 50% alcohol content
Conclusion: Teen Alcoholism
As discussed above, research studies have shown that teen alcoholism is related to when they start drinking, as
well as to the amount and the frequency of their drinking behavior.
Perhaps the key statistic along these lines is the following from the NIAAA: teens 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
Armed with this information, our educators, parents, and political leaders need to educate our young people on
the dangers of alcohol abuse and alcoholism BEFORE they become teenagers.