Alcohol is the most used drug of choice in the United States by adults and young people alike. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 86 percent of Americans 18 and older drank alcohol at some point in their lives, and 55 percent drank it in the past month.
Despite its widespread acceptance in American culture, alcohol is far from harmless. More than 15 million Americans will struggle with alcohol use disorder, which includes alcoholism, according to NIAAA, and 400,000 of them are teenagers. Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of people with AUD will receive treatment, and young people are even less likely than adults to receive treatment.
Key Facts about Alcohol
- In 2018, 26 percent of people 18 or older engaged in binge drinking in the past month.
- About 88,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death behind tobacco use and poor diet and inactivity.
- Alcohol is a leading cause of driving fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving accounted for almost 10,000 deaths.
- More than 10 percent of children in the U.S. live with a parent who has problems with alcohol, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Using alcohol with medicines can cause a host of adverse interactions, including nausea, vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, and loss of coordination. Other risks include internal bleeding, heart problems, and difficulty breathing, and alcohol use can render medicines less effective or even ineffective.
How Alcohol Affects Young People
Alcohol has an outsized influence and effect on young people. While youth aren’t legally able to buy or consume alcohol, they consume 11 percent of all alcohol in the U.S. They also drink more alcohol per drinking occasion than adults do.
Young people are also heavily affected by alcohol. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol is a factor in an average 4,358 annual deaths of young people under 21. Those deaths come in the form of car crashes, homicides, suicide, alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, and drowning. Additionally, SAMHSA found that 188,000 people under 21 visited the emergency room for alcohol-related injuries in 2011.
Young people who drink are also likely to have other problems. They’re more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking, may have trouble in school or with the law, and have problems with alcohol later in life. Alcohol is also known to alter brain development and may cause cognitive or learning problems when people drink heavily and at a young age.
Resources for Preventing Underage Drinking
Below are resources about alcohol, including a parenting tip about why parents shouldn’t furnish alcohol for teenagers, the Parents Who Host Lose The Most media campaign, fact sheets and brochures from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and underage drinking resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.