Alcohol and Teens: 8 Surprising Facts and Figures

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For teenagers and their parents, spring means a season of celebrations such as the prom, high school graduation and other warm-weather events. Many of these occasions mean parties. And for some young people, that means drinking alcohol.

Although the legal drinking age is 21 in South Carolina and throughout the country, many teens have a drink well before then. Some teens “binge drink” large amounts of alcohol.

A number of studies and government publications point to some surprising and alarming statistics when it comes to teenagers and alcohol, including:

1. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that in the last 30 days, 35 percent of high school students drank alcohol and 21 percent binge drank.

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2. The same survey showed that 10 percent of high school students drove after drinking alcohol and 22 percent rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

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3. A recent study showed 72 percent of students have drunk more than a few sips of alcohol by the end of high school, with 37 percent having done so by 8th grade. The average age for trying alcohol is 13 for boys and 15 for girls.

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4. Teens don’t drink as often as adults but they tend to drink significantly more when they do. People ages 12 to 20 drink 11 percent of the alcohol consumed in the United States, with more than 90 percent of that alcohol consumed in binge drinking.

5. Injuries and other conditions related to drinking alcohol result in about 189,000 emergency room visits by teens during a typical year. Each year alcohol is to blame for the deaths 5,000 people under 21 in car accidents, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning and other fatal injuries.

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6. People who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to abuse alcohol or develop a dependence on alcohol than those who begin drinking at age 21 or older.

7. Teens who drink alcohol are more likely to have physical illnesses, unwanted, unplanned or unprotected sexual activity, experience physical and sexual assault, get into fights and abuse other drugs. They are also at a higher risk for suicide and homicide.

8. Teens’ brains are still developing. Alcohol can adversely affect brain development, causing issues such as memory problems and problems in school. These issues can stay with a person forever.

Teen drinking is a serious problem. Signs that your teenage child could be drinking include problems in school, less interest in activities they once loved, changing groups of friends, slurred speech, coordination problems, memory or concentration problems or finding alcohol among their things.

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