Information on Teens & Alcohol
Part of growing up involves testing personal and social boundaries. This typically includes trying new things, including potentially harmful substances such as alcohol.
Teens may be enticed to use alcohol due to: a need to relieve stress, peer pressure, curiosity, trying to emulate/copy parents or adult behavior, because it feels good, or because it is easy to obtain.
It is difficult to know which teens will merely try alcohol and whether or not they will drink casually or potentially develop alcohol dependency. Help lower the chances of putting your teen in potentially harmful situations by keeping the conversation regarding alcohol open.
The following information and tips will help you and your teen approach this situation by: understanding the risks of alcohol, defining ways to drink responsibly and/or how to decline drinking altogether, and identifying alcohol abuse.
- Quick Facts
- Tips for Parents
- Tips for teens to say, "No!" to alcohol
- What should I do if my teen uses alcohol?
- Alcohol-related car crashes are a leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults.
- Alcohol use is involved in many drownings, suicides, homicides, and injuries.
- Alcohol is the drug of choice among teens.
- Beer and wine are not safer than hard liquor.
- It is illegal in most states to provide alcohol to minors who are not members of the family.
- Using alcohol and tobacco at a young age – especially before high school – increases the risk for using other drugs later, such as marijuana and cocaine.
- Many teens abuse alcohol. As early as the eighth grade, some students report heavy drinking.
- Most states have "zero-tolerance" laws. This means that underage drivers (less than 21 years) with even a trace of alcohol on their breath will lose their drivers license.
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Tips for Parents
- Talk about family expectations and rules about alcohol use. Clearly state and enforce the consequences for breaking the rules.
- Frequently express how you feel about underage drinking. However, do not lecture or threaten your teen about alcohol use.
- Talk about personal, family, social, or religious values that give your teen reasons not to drink.
- Talk about any religious or cultural traditions in your family that include the acceptable use of alcohol.
- Make it clear that drinking and driving or riding with someone who has been drinking will not be tolerated. Ask your teen to call for a ride, take a cab, or call for permission to stay overnight if he or she or a friend who is driving has been drinking. This does not give teens permission to drink, it tells them that their safety is most important.
- Talk with your teen about ways to handle pressure from friends to drink. Teach your teen how to say "no" and to suggest doing something different (safe). To feel comfortable talking openly with you, your teen needs to know that you will not punish him or her for being honest.
- Help your teen to develop outside interests. Encourage him or her to join a team or club, become a volunteer, get a part-time job, or take music lessons.
- When your teen wants to talk about alcohol, listen to his or her opinions, help him or her make good decisions, and treat him or her with respect.
- Get to know your teen's friends. Know where they hang out and what they are doing. Talk with the friends' parents about alcohol.
- Do not serve alcohol to your teen or his or her friends. Lock your liquor cabinet.
- Do not ask your teen to open a bottle of wine, bring you a beer, or pour drinks.
- Be a role model. If you drink, do so responsibly. Never drink and drive! Do not use alcohol as a way to cope with stress, depression, or anger. Alcohol can only make problems worse in the long run.
- If you have a drinking problem, or think you may have one, help is available. Talk to a health care professional and/or see the Sources section(listed to the Right of the page).
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Tips for teens to say, "No!" to alcohol
- Say it like you mean it.
- You don't have to give reasons or excuses. "No" by itself is enough.
- Suggest doing something different.
- If the person continues to pressure you, walk away.
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What should I do if my teen uses alcohol?
Calmly talk about the extent of his or her use – how often, how much, with whom, where, and why. Explain why you are concerned. Remind your teen of your rules about alcohol use and enforce the consequences for breaking them.
If you have reason to believe your teen is abusing alcohol or your efforts to enforce the rules have failed repeatedly, seek help from a counselor or health care professional.
© 2001, American Medical Association
Used by permission.
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Reviewed By: Adolescent Interest Group
Last Reviewed: August 2013
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Adolescent Health On-Line.
Join Together Online.
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information.
Hotlines and Help Lines from Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
Additionally, you may wish to consult these sources for more information regarding alcohol use and abuse:
- Your teen's health care provider.
- Your teen's school counselor.
- Your local hospital or public health department.