Alcohol is the most widely abused drug in the United States. On the average, teenage drinking begins very early, often during the preteen years. This happens partly because alcohol is easily available. Many teens first try alcohol by getting it from their own homes.
Many parents believe that alcohol is not really a problem, and many feel relieved when they find out their teen is "only drinking alcohol" and not taking other drugs. This is dangerous thinking. Alcohol use in the teen years is a serious concern. Even occasional alcohol use by a teen is a sign that he or she is at increased risk for future alcohol and drug problems. Also, a teen who drinks alcohol before the age of 14 has an increased risk for developing an alcohol use problem.1
Alcohol is a sedative, and it reduces anxiety. In a person who is not dependent on alcohol, moderate amounts cause sleepiness, good feelings (euphoria), decreased inhibition, and impaired coordination. Alcohol decreases the quality of sleep, especially if a person is using it often to help him or her fall asleep. Drinking larger amounts of alcohol causes poor judgment, mood swings, slurred speech, and an unsteady gait. Binge drinking (having 5 or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion) or heavy use of alcohol can lead to unconsciousness, coma, and death.
Teens use alcohol because they believe it relaxes them, makes them feel less stressed, and helps them feel more confident. There are many reasons that teens should not drink. Alcohol can:
Alcohol also can:
Alcohol can be detected in a urine drug screen for up to 12 hours after drinking. Breath alcohol tests detect the level of alcohol in the blood during the time of the test.
Signs of alcohol use or abuse may include:
Last Revised: August 19, 2010
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