Alcohol is one of the most abused substances for youth in the United States, and many teenagers have their first drink before entering high school. Whether influenced by peer pressure or the need to bypass common growing pains, underage drinking can lead to a number of dangers and health concerns that can affect the rest of a teen’s life. Those who drink prior to reaching legality are more likely to struggle with alcohol use disorder, to become victims of crime and to be involved in alcohol-related car accidents.

Teenage Alcohol Abuse
Underage drinking has become a public health concern in the United States that not only affects youth, but also their families. It is a catalyst for irresponsible decisions and unfortunate consequences. Early drinking habits bring an onset of health concerns and increase the risk of accidental injury and sometimes death. Some of the common dangers of underage drinking include:

  • Incomplete Brain Development – Normal brain development carries into a person’s 20s. Alcohol can affect the development process and functionality, increasing the risk of developing learning issues, memory loss, impaired coordination and the loss of motor skills. Increased alcohol consumption also increases the risk of the brain becoming dependent on alcohol.
  • Health Concerns – Alcohol abuse and dependency ultimately increases the risk of cancer, cirrhosis and damage to the nervous system. Alcohol can also become a gateway to other substance abuse.
  • Increased Risk of Sexual Assault – Underage youth are more likely to carry out or become victims of date rape and sexual assault. More than 95,000 students between the ages of 18 – 24 are victim to alcohol-related sexual assault every year.
  • Impaired Judgement – Underage drinking increases the ability to make poor decisions including driving while intoxicated, having unprotected sex, and sometimes engaging in illegal activities.
  • Addiction – Youth who drink before the legal limit are more susceptible to alcohol addiction. Those who drink before the age of 15 are more than five times more likely to become dependent on alcohol later in life than those who begin drinking at the legal age of 21.
  • Death – Underage drinking can sometimes mask other health or mental issues including anxiety and depression. Drinking can increases the risk of suicide and fatal traffic accidents. Nearly 2,000 people under the age of 21 are killed each year from alcohol-related car accidents.
Underage drinking increases the likelihood of consuming more than four or five alcoholic beverages in one sitting, also known as binge drinking. Although it is not considered as alcohol dependence, binge drinking can lead in that direction if done too frequently. Teenagers who binge on alcohol are more likely to fall behind in school or become injured. They are also prone to blackouts, or extreme memory loss of events that occurred while intoxicated.

In addition, youth who engage in binge drinking are more likely to experience an alcohol overdose, also referred to as alcohol poisoning. This side effect can cause serious injury to the organs and sometimes can cause death. Some common signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Strong odor of alcohol coming from the skin or breath
  • Unconsciousness
  • Slow breathing
  • Pale or cold skin
Dangerous behaviors and habits can build from increased alcohol consumption, and consequences can be more detrimental to youth. Teenage alcohol abuse is specifically dangerous because alcohol is consumed in excess. Teens may not drink every day, but when they do they may drink more than they can handle at one time. Alcohol abuse is a high risk behavior that can lead to poor decisions, binge drinking, alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related accidents.

Teenage alcohol abuse can also lead to alcoholism or alcohol dependence. Consuming too much alcohol too frequently can become a part of a daily regimen, increasing a person’s tolerance to the substance and a physical need for it. Teens that develop an alcohol dependency cannot control their drinking and can develop cravings for alcohol. Severe alcohol dependency can lead to a battle with withdrawal symptoms if the body does not receive it regularly, and sometimes death.the

Early onset alcohol abuse and alcoholism can influence major behavioral changes in youth. Because teenagers are still developing, these behaviors can sometimes be confused with puberty or growing pains. However, it is important to recognize the signs that may indicate an alcohol problem:

  • Finding alcohol in teen’s belongings
  • Alcohol odor on clothes or skin
  • Irregular coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Gradual decline in academics
  • Rebelliousness
  • Change in friends
  • Memory loss or concentration issues
  • Loss of interest in activities
If your teenager is exhibiting signs of alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction, do not hesitate in seeking help. The Recovery Village and our trained team of professionals can help to guide you to a treatment program that not only supports your teen, but also supports your family. The road to recovery does not have to be taken alone. Contact The Recovery Village today so we can help you to take your first step.
Dryden-Edwards, MD, R. (2015, November 23). Alcohol and Teens. Retrieved from (n.d.). Teenage Drinking: Understanding the Dangers and Talking to Your Child. Retrieved from

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2017, February). Underage Drinking. Retrieved from