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Alcohol Use in Adolescence

More adolescents drink alcohol than smoke cigarettes or use marijuana.1 More than three in ten high school seniors report drinking some alcohol within the past month, and more than one in six reported “binge drinking” within the past two weeks.1 Drinking endangers adolescents in multiple ways including motor vehicle crashes, a leading cause of death for this age group.2, 3 One in five adolescents has ridden in a car with a driver who had been drinking.4 Genetic factors and life stressors influence adolescents’ alcohol abuse, but parents and guardians can help by monitoring adolescents’ activities and keeping channels of communication open.5

Check out these resources for adolescents who may be struggling with alcohol issues

  • Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) substance abuse treatment helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. Confidential, free service, along with referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations, are available for individuals and family members facing substance abuse and mental health issues.
  • To find a local substance abuse treatment facility, visit SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.
  • The Partnership at Drugfree.org offers information for parents about drug and alcohol abuse. There is also a toll-free number (1-855-378-4373) that parents or other caring adults can call to speak with a social worker if they are concerned about their adolescent’s drug or alcohol use.

Learn more about alcohol and adolescents

Resources for Parents

  • Make a Difference: Talk to Your Child About Alcohol from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is a guide with tips for parents on how to communicate effectively with their children about alcohol. It is specifically targeted at parents of younger adolescents (10 to 14 years of age).
  • The Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking has resources for parents and caregivers in both English and Spanish.
  • Teen Drinking and Driving: A Dangerous Mix is a campaign from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that provides data and information on teen drinking and driving. Its website outlines the problem, risk factors, and tips on how to help.

Resources for Adolescents

  • The Cool Spot from NIAAA offers information to younger adolescents about alcohol and peer pressure, and provides them with strategies to make healthy choices.
  • Underage Drinking – Myths vs. Facts from SAMHSA provides adolescents with the real facts about alcohol use and gives adolescents information about what to do if they do have an alcohol problem.
  • Straight talk about alcohol from Girlshealth.gov provides adolescents with tools to “say no” to alcohol, along with information about the effect of alcohol on the body.


1 Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Miech, R. A., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2016).Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use: 1975-2015: Overview of key findings on adolescent drug use. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Retrieved August 25, 2016, from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2015.pdf
2 Kochanek, K.D., Murphy, S.L., Xu, J.Q., Tejada-Vera, B. (2016). Deaths: Final data for 2014. National Vital Statistics Reports, 65(4). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved August 25, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr65/nvsr65_04.pdf
3 U.S. Department of Transportation. (2014). Young Drivers. DOT HS 812 019. Washington, DC. Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812019.pdf
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(6). Retrieved August 25, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2015/ss6506_updated.pdf
5 Brody, G. E., Beach, S. R. H., Philibert, R. A., Chen, Y.-f., & Murry, V. M. (2009). Prevention effects moderate the association of 5-HTTLPR and youth risk behavior initiation: Gene x environment hypotheses tested via a randomized prevention design. Child Development, 80(3), 645-661.
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on September 21, 2016