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Underage Drinking

When teens drink, they drink a lot

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Underage drinking is a common problem. In the 16-17 year old age range, in 2019 about one in five teens reported drinking in the prior 30 days.

Another hard-hitting statistic in the underage drinking discussion: More than 90 percent of all alcoholic drinks consumed by young people are consumed through binge drinking.

What is binge drinking?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), binge drinking is "a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks or women consume four or more drinks in about two hours."

The prevalence of binge drinking among teens is especially concerning, because the younger they start and the more they drink, the risk factors increase.

Why do teens drink at all?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism studied teen's tendencies toward drinking before they are 21. Some reasons include:

  • Risk-taking, especially with increased desire for independence in adolescence
  • Expectancies, or attitudes toward alcohol becoming more positive as an adolescent gets older
  • Perceived higher alcohol tolerance
  • Hereditary factors
  • And more

The risks of binge drinking

Any alcohol use before a person is of legal drinking age can affect the structure of the brain, and binge drinking increases those chances.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), teens who drink heavily can develop "cognitive or learning problems and/or increase vulnerability for alcohol use disorder."

Binge drinking also increases the risk of alcohol-related injuries, such as alcohol poisoning, car accidents, falls, and burns.

Preventing binge drinking

The CDC and the NIH provide recommendations for prevention of binge drinking from different focus areas.

In the home and at school, adults can be role models for impressionable teens.

The best thing a parent or teacher can do is have open conversation with teens about the dangers of underage drinking and binge drinking.

For more underage drinking prevention resources, visit Safe and Sober's underage drinking resource page.

Learn more about how alcohol affects the teenage brain

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