Teen Behavior Drugs Drinking

The problem of teenage drinking and drug abuse is a major concern for parents, and with good reason. Drinking and drug abuse are harmful to a teen’s physical growth and development. Additionally, teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as unsafe sex, when intoxicated.

Statistics on Teen Alcohol and Drug Use

Although the prevalence of teen drinking in the United States decreased somewhat between 1999 and 2009, alcohol is still the most widely used and abused drug by teenagers. In a 2009 survey of high school students, 42 percent had had at least one drink within the past 30 days, and 24 percent reported occasional to frequent binge drinking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008).

According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (n.d.), of illicit drugs, the one most commonly used by teenagers is marijuana. Like alcohol use, teen marijuana use in the United States has also decreased in recent years. However, the abuse of other drugs, particularly prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications, has increased among teenagers. Some teens seem to falsely believe that these classes of drugs are less dangerous than illegal “street” drugs. However, abusing pain medications, stimulants or other over-the-counter drugs is just as dangerous as abusing illegal substances.

Health Risks of Teen Drug Abuse and Drinking

Drinking excessively and drug abuse can affect the health of people of all ages, but teens are particularly susceptible to dangerous health risks. The health risks associated with alcohol and drug abuse include:

  • Addiction: Teens who drink and use drugs are more likely to have issues with alcoholism and drug dependency as adults than teens who avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • Alcohol poisoning: When teens drink, they tend to consume more drinks per episode than adult drinkers, making them especially prone to alcohol poisoning. This can cause vomiting, unconsciousness, impaired decision making and even death. Combining alcohol with other drugs (such as prescription medications) is also particularly dangerous.
  • Liver damage: Alcohol and many drugs are metabolized in the liver. Reversible damage to the liver can occur with moderate use. Long term, irreversible damage is common in heavy users.
  • Nerve damage in the brain: Brain scans of teenage drinkers have revealed that they have damaged nerve tissue that is not seen in teenagers who abstain from alcohol. Because brain development is not complete until adulthood, the alcohol-induced brain damage is believed to occur strictly in underage drinkers, including older teens.

Drugs and drinking also have indirect health risks. Teens who drink and abuse drugs are less likely to perform well in school and may get into trouble with the law more often than teens who avoid drugs and alcohol. When intoxicated, teens are more likely to have unprotected sex, which can lead to unwanted pregnancy or contraction of a disease. Drinking and driving is another concern. In the United States, up to 40 percent of fatal, alcohol-related car accidents involve teen drinking and driving, according to AlcoholAlert.com (n.d.).

Drug and alcohol abuse may also be an indication that a teenager is suffering from unaddressed emotional problems. The teens most susceptible to experimenting with drugs and alcohol are those with a history of behavioral problems. A troubled home life and stresses at school are also linked to susceptibility.


Alcoholalert.com. (n.d.). Teenage drunk driving risks. Retrieved August 29, 2010, from http://www.alcoholalert.com/teenage-drunk-driving.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Fact sheets: underage drinking. Retrieved August 29, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Healthy youth: alcohol