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Teen Alcohol Facts

A Factsheet for Parents of Troubled Teens


Updated October 17, 2012

What Is It?

Because alcohol is easy to obtain and socially acceptable it is a very popular means of self-medication for depression. Despite the fact that is illegal for young teens to purchase it, they are able to get it through their parent's own liquor cabinets, unscrupulous store clerks, or older friends who purchase it for them.

Says Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) adminstrator Nelba Chavez, PhD, "Parents need to know that alcohol use can also be a warning sign or a cry for help that something is seriously wrong in a child's life."

Other Names

Beer, wine, liquor, booze, alcohol, EtOH.

Why Do People Do It?

People use alcohol for numerous reasons. Peer pressure, celebration, anxiety, sadness, boredom, rebellion and insomnia are just a few.

It could be argued that drinking to cope with depression has almost become a badge of honor in our society, that drinking is a visible sign to the world that a person is indeed hurting. One need only take a look at popular songs, movies and television shows to see the evidence. One recovering alcoholic that I spoke to summed this up very well:

"The first time I drank I was 18 years old and depressed over something my boyfriend had done that hurt me. Getting drunk just seemed the thing to do. One of my favorite soap characters, Bo Brady from "Day of Our Lives", did it all the time. He would get some terrible blow to his life and he would zoom off on his motorcycle and go on a drinking binge. Nobody condemned him for it. His whole family rallied around to help him get through his grief. In my case, I was able to forget my sadness for an evening and have some fun. My boyfriend took notice as well. I thought I had found a way to express my sadness to others and feel better at the same time. Over the years I added more reasons to drink--it helped me sleep, it helped me get over my social phobia, it felt good, and yes, it helped me forget my depression. Thirteen years after I took my first drink I had reached a point where I was drinking anywhere from 6 - 12 beers a day. I was waking up shaky and sick. I was routinely having to explain away twisted ankles and other injuries sustained while I was drunk. I'm now over three years sober and thankfully made no mistakes with long-term ramifications. I know I did many things that easily could have killed me. Please explain to your kids that there are better way to cope with depression. All you have to do is ask for help."

Who Uses Alcohol?

The median age at which teens begin to drink is thirteen. 87% of high school seniors have used alcohol. Students with grades of D or F drink 3 times as much as their counterparts with good grades. 58% of teenage drinkers report they drink when they are upset or depressed. For more sobering statistics about teen drinking visit the Project for Drug Free Schools site.

Alcoholics Anonymous further adds that nobody is immune from alcoholism. All ages, genders and races can be a victim of this illness.

Warning Signs

The smell of alcohol on the breath, slurred speech, problems with coordination are tell-tale signs. Falling grades, skipping school, and behavioral problems are also more common in teen drinkers. You may also notice sudden changes in the friends you child is spending time with. Drinkers tend to be more prone to unintentional injuries such as falls, car accidents, falls, drowning, burns and shootings.


For the most up-to-date and complete information about treating alcohol problems, I recommend that you explore BuddyT's site here at About. This site is simply the best on the Web. He provides information not only for the alcoholic, but for anyone who has experienced problems with their alcohol use.

More Fact Sheets for Parents of Troubled Teens

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Depression
  4. Who's at Risk?
  5. Age Groups
  6. Child Depression
  7. Depression in Teens
  8. Teens Depression and Alcohol

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