What You Should Know



Alcohol is the most commonly used illegal substance by teenagers.

This is due to many factors:

  • Easy assess to alcohol.
  • Perception that alcohol is not as serious as other drugs.
  • Social acceptance of alcohol among adults.


Why 21?

The legal drinking age of 21 is based on science and medical fact.

  • The adolescent brain is developing rapidly. Alcohol prohibits this development.
  • The adolescent brain has not yet developed the “cut-off switch” for alcohol.
  • Drinking alcohol at a young age increases the likelihood of life-long dependence.
  • Drinking alcohol at a young age dramatically increases the use of other illicit drugs.


Why do they use?

There are many reasons why a teen starts drinking or using drugs.  But it is important for parents to understand some of the core issues and influences in order to talk with their kids before it begins. According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, the top 8 reasons why teens start drinking and/or using drugs includes: 

  1. Other people  
  2. Popular media  
  3. Escape and self-medication 
  4. Boredom 
  5. Rebellion 
  6. Instant Gratification 
  7. Lake of Confidence 
  8. Misinformation 

(Source: Drug Free America)


Early Alcohol Use & Long-Term Addiction

Drinking at an early age dramatically increases the likelihood of life-long alcohol dependency.

Alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse by American youth.  More youth are drinking alcohol that are using tobacco or illicit drugs. Today, 10% of 12-year olds have had alcohol, and this percentage increases to 50% by age 15.  Research has shown that drinking alcohol at an early age can lead to alcohol-related problems later in life. Of adults who started drinking alcohol before age 15, approximately 40% say they have the signs of alcohol dependence. This dependency rate is five times higher than for adults who didn’t drink until they were age 21. (Source: Journal of Substance Abuse)

More than 67% of young people who start drinking by age 15 will try an illicit drug.  As compared to children who never drink, children who drink are:

  • 7.5 times more likely to use an illicit drug.
  • 22 times more likely to use marijuana.
  • 50 times more likely to use cocaine.

(Source:  Lake County Prevention Task Force)


Taking Away the Keys Is Not Enough

Each year, approximately 5,000 people die as a result of underage drinking, and most of these deaths have nothing to do with operating a motor vehicle.

Underage alcohol use is a major cause of death among young people in the US.

  • 1,900 deaths from alcohol-induced motor vehicle crashes.
  • 1,600 deaths from alcohol-induced homicides.
  • 300 deaths from alcohol-induced suicides.
  • More than 1,000 deaths from alcohol-induced falls, burns, and drowning.

(Source:  Journal of Substance Abuse)


Why Teens Choose NOT to Drink Alcohol 

It's important for you to know that MOST TEENS DON'T DRINK OR DO DRUGS.  Studies show that more than 70% of high school students don't drink alcohol.  Teens can and do choose to not use drugs or drink alcohol. 

Some of the reasons that teens give for NOT drinking include:

  • underage drinking is illegal
  • effect on grades/school
  • threat to their future - getting into college, getting a job
  • effect on brain development and overall health
  • parents don't approve
  • damage to relationships with family and friends who don't drink or do drugs
  • possibility of addiction
  • they don't want to be like the people who do drink or do drugs
  • it prevents you from being the person you are supposed to be

The majority of teens surveyed also have stated that they are less interested in being friends with or dating someone who drinks underage.

 Despite the way it might seem, the reality is that the majority of teens AREN'T drinking or doing drugs.  Remember - when saying "no", you are not alone! 

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