Teen drinking is associated with drunk driving, harm to the developing brain, and later alcohol dependence. Allowing teens to drink at home can increase risks.

Parents may be concerned about teen drinking, and for valid reasons. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, one-third of 15-year-old teens have had at least one alcoholic beverage. Letting your teen drink at home can lead to alcoholism later in life, as well as pose dangerous teen driving risks and underdevelopment of the brain.

Some parents feel that allowing teens to consume alcohol at home can reduce the risks associated with underage drinking. However, there are harmful consequences that can have long-lasting effects and may not all be immediately noticeable. 

Lead By Example

Parents who consume alcohol in moderation and follow safe drinking practices — such as using a designated driver if they are going out for drinks — set a positive example for their teens. On the other hand, parents who allow teens to drink at home are sending the message that it is okay to break the law.

Parents may feel that they are preventing unsafe habits, like drunk driving, by allowing their teens to consume alcohol at home, but teen drinking statistics show that this remains a dangerous practice. One study found that teens whose parents give them alcohol at home are:

  • 2.58 times more likely to binge drink
  • 2.51 times more likely to demonstrate symptoms of an alcohol use disorder
  • 2.53 times more likely to suffer from harm related to alcohol 

Early Teen Drinking Leads to Later Alcoholism

Binge drinking among teens can have lasting consequences. According to studies, youth who begin consuming alcohol prior to age 15 are four times more likely to suffer from alcohol dependence during their lifetime. This is because alcohol use, especially among young, heavy drinkers, can produce cognitive deficits that increase susceptibility to alcohol dependence.

review of the research on teens and drinking also demonstrates that adolescent alcohol use is associated with alcohol-related problems later in life. Teens who drink more between the ages of 15 and 19 tend to continue drinking as they become adults and are more likely to become dependent upon alcohol. 

Teen Drinking and Driving Risks

Teen drinking and driving is another serious risk associated with underage alcohol consumption. Teen drinking and driving statistics show that every year, alcohol causes 1,580 deaths due to car crashes in underage drinkers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a survey of high school students shows that 10% of those who are of driving age report recently driving a vehicle on at least one occasion after consuming alcohol.

Research also shows that those who begin drinking at younger ages are more likely to indicate that they have driven drunk or have been involved in a car wreck as a result of alcohol. Parents who allow teens to drink alcohol at home may actually be increasing the risk that they will drive while under the influence of alcohol.

Teen Drinking is Harmful to the Underage Brain

Beyond increasing the risk for alcohol-related problems and driving under the influence, allowing teens to drink at home can harm their brain development. According to experts, teenage brains are undergoing significant changes in structure, which can make them more sensitive to the harmful effects of alcohol. For instance, alcohol may be especially damaging to areas of the brain associated with learning and memory among teens.

Teens who drink are at risk of experiencing difficulties such as recalling phone numbers or events. They may also find it more challenging to learn new information, which can cause problems at school. Parents who allow adolescents to drink at home are exposing their teens to alcohol’s harmful effects on brain development.

If your teen is abusing alcohol and is in need of treatment, The Recovery Village has a team of caring staff ready to answer your questions about teenage rehab. Reach out to our admissions team today to learn more.

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Editor – Rob Alston
Rob Alston has traveled around Australia, Japan, Europe, and America as a writer and editor for industries including personal wellness and recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Dr. Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has over seven years working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health diagnoses. Read more

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “Results from the 2015 National Survey on[…]Drug Use and Health.”  SAMSHA, 2015. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Mattick, Richard et al. “Association of parental supply of alcohol with adolescent drinking, alcohol-related harms, and alcohol use disorder symptoms: A prospective cohort study.” The Lancet Public Health, February 2018. Accessed August 13, 2019.

McCambridge, Jim. “Adult consequences of late adolescent[…]cohort studies.” PLOS Medicine, February 8, 2011. Accessed August 13, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Teen drinking and driving.” October 2012. Accessed August 13, 2019.

Hingson, Ralph. “Age of drinking onset, driving after drinking, and involvement in alcohol related motor-vehicle crashes.” Accident Analysis & Prevention,January 2002. Accessed August 13, 2019.

Hiller-Sturmhofel, Susanne, and Swartzwelder, Scott. “Alcohol’s effects on the adolescent[…] animal models.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Accessed August 13, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.