Underage drinking is common across the country and it presents real problems for public safety, public health, and for individuals. When teens drink, they risk harming their developing brains, making bad choices and getting in accidents that may cause injuries or fatalities. It is important for all parents to know the statistics of underage drinking, as well as the risks this behavior poses.
Teenage Drinking Statistics
Most parents are probably unaware of just how extensive the problem of teen drinking is. If you think that your child would never drink at a party, has never been drunk, or would never get in a car with a friend who had been drinking, you might be surprised to know how prevalent these activities really are. In fact, by eighth grade, almost one-third of students have tried drinking at least once. By sophomore year of high school, that number rises to 58 percent. Among seniors in high school, nearly three-quarters of students have not only tried alcohol, they have abused it.
On average, the age at which a boy first tries drinking is 11. Most girls try alcohol by the age of 13. Eleven percent of all alcohol consumed in the country is by underage drinkers. The quantity of alcohol consumed by some teenagers is also disturbing. Among seniors in high school, nearly one-quarter have engaged in binge drinking, which means having five or more drinks in a row.
Dangers of Underage Drinking
The facts about teenage drinking may be unsettling, but it is important to understand just how harmful these behaviors can be. Drinking can lead to making bad choices. For instance, teens who drink are much more likely than their peers to try drugs. Other bad decisions made by teens drinking include having unprotected sex, driving while under the influence and getting in the car as a passenger with a driver who has been drinking. Twenty four percent of high school students admit to getting in a car with a drunk driver behind the wheel.
There is also a great potential for long-term harm caused by underage drinking. Drugs and alcohol facts and statistics tell us that teens who drink are three times more likely to engage in self-harm, such as suicide attempts. A teenager’s brain is still developing, which means that drinking can cause lasting harm. Teens who drink are more likely to fail academically, to miss days of school, and to have social problems such as fighting.
The good news about teen drinking is that we know parents can make a difference. When parents talk to their teenagers about drinking and using drugs, the chance that those teens will use drugs or abuse alcohol drops by 42 percent. Unfortunately, most teens report never having this talk with their parents. You can be the deciding factor when your child is faced with the choice of trying alcohol. Have this important talk with your kids and you could be saving their lives.