Facts about Teens, Alcohol, and Other Drugs

posted Dec 28, 2011, 12:33 PM by Corey Haynes
1. The younger kids start drinking, the more likely they are to become dependent.
2. Massachusetts teens in suburbs use illegal drugs just as much as teens in cities.
3. Alcohol can damage the developing teenage brain.
4. Teens who drink are far more likely to engage in other risky behaviors.
5. Kids whose parents are involved in their lives are less likely to use alcohol and other drugs.


1. The younger kids start drinking, the more likely they are to become dependent. 
Studies show that a person who starts drinking before age 15 is four times more likely to develop alcoholism than someone who delays drinking until age 21. That means that the longer you can postpone the age of first use, the safer your child is likely to be. Unfortunately for some kids, binge drinking begins in middle school. 

“Kids are binge drinking in 7th grade; smoking weed in 7th grade.” – Substance Abuse Counselor 

“At dances, about half the kids would leave and go back to a big, wooded area behind the school, and then come back into the dance stumbling and falling down.” – High school junior describing 7th grade dances at a suburban school.

2. Teens in suburbs use illegal drugs just as much as teens in cities.
“’Drugs aren’t a problem in the suburbs.’ That’s one of the biggest myths I hear. I think that drug use in the suburbs is possibly even greater than in the inner city. A lot of kids in the city see the devastating effects of drugs and decide, ‘that’s not going to happen to me.’ In the suburbs, kids have access to the three ingredients needed for drug use––money, cell phones, and transportation. The first thing we do in treatment is remove access to those three things so that the teenager doesn’t have the money to buy, the phone to arrange a purchase, or a car to go get it.” – Dr. John Knight, Children’s Hospital Boston

“Youth Risk Behavior Survey” of the freshman class at a Massachusetts suburban high school:

Used alcohol in the last month ………………………..32% 
Participated in binge drinking over the past month …14% 
Used marijuana in the last month …………………….18% 
Had drugs offered or sold to them at school …………38%

3. Alcohol can damage the developing teenage brain. 
Youth who drink alcohol at home may not understand how dangerous it can be. Dr. Susan Tapert and colleagues at the University of California San Diego used MRIs to compare the brains of 15- and 16-year-olds who drank heavily with teens who had no history of alcohol abuse. 

"The biggest difference we found between the alcohol-dependent and the non-abusing teens had to do with memory functions. Mostly, the alcohol-dependent youth did a poorer job at recalling new information… If students are drinking so heavily that it's affecting their brain functioning, they may not be able to get as much out of educational opportunities. This could significantly disrupt their future choices, chances of going to college, and ability to get a good job." Dr. Susan Tapert, University of California, San Diego

4. Teens who drink are far more likely to engage in other risky behaviors.
When you were a kid, risks were associated with drinking. Maybe a classmate, friend or relative was injured or killed in a drunk-driving accident. Now we know even more about the risks. In Massachusetts in 2003, 28 percent of teens said that in the past month they had ridden in a car with a driver who had been drinking. Many teens don’t realize that you cannot sober up after a night of drinking. 

“Kids stand around and say, ‘Who’s the least drunk?’ And it’s every single weekend. The designated driver drinks until 10, then ‘sobers up’ until 11:30 and drives home. My biggest concern is the sense of invincibility and driving.” 
– High school junior 

· Teens today face risks like AIDS and exposure to a wide range of prescription drugs that may not have been present when you were their age. When combined with alcohol, these drugs can have deadly consequences. 

For a teen, drinking three beers is the equivalent of an adult of the same weight drinking a six-pack! 

Teens who drink and cause harm are still held responsible. Drinking is not an excuse and does not change the consequences of a bad decision. 

Teens who drink have higher rates of: 
· fighting 
· riding with a drunk driver 
· carrying a weapon 
· attempting suicide 
· engaging in risky sexual behavior 
· using other illegal drugs 
· being victims of sexual assault 

5. Kids whose parents are involved in their lives are less likely to use alcohol and other drugs.
We want our kids to be popular and to fit in, but keeping kids safe is more important. It’s true that many parents don’t set limits, but there are many who do. It’s not too late to start. 

“Teenagers don’t want limits but they need them. They don’t thrive without limits. It’s the job of being a parent. It’s one role that is thankless in the short term. The pay off comes much farther down the road.” – Dr. John Knight, Children’s Hospital Boston
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