15 Alcohol Facts: What Parents Need to Know

A collection of alcohol covered by a "no sign."
A collection of alcoholic drinkings covered by a "no sign."

Many people think they know everything they need to know when it comes to alcohol and underage drinking. However, the statistics out there may surprise you. Underage drinking is a serious problem throughout the United States. And drinking is more than dangerous for young people while they are still underage. The impact of underage drinking can continue to affect young people for the rest of their lives.

These continued dangers and long-lasting effects are major reasons why it is so important that parents, and young people themselves, know the facts and statistics surrounding the dangers and costs of underage drinking. Here are 15 alcohol facts that parents need to know to protect their children and stay informed.

1. 88,000 Deaths are Attributed to Excessive Alcohol Use Each Year

One of the biggest and most eye-popping alcohol facts is that is excessive alcohol use is responsible for 88,000 deaths in the United States each year. By excessive alcohol use, we’re talking about heavy drinking, binge drinking, and underage drinking as well. That’s enough to make excessive alcohol misuse the third-highest cause of death in the United States!

2. Over 12 Percent of 8th Graders Report Binge Drinking in the Past 30 Days

The details concerning fatalities related to excessive alcohol are already shocking, but they’re even more disturbing when you consider how they affect underage young people. In many cases, underage drinking means binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks per occasion.

The percentage of young people that participate in binge drinking is disturbing, to say the least. According to a study by the Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, 5.7 percent of 7th graders and 12.4 percent of 8th graders reported that they had participated in binge drinking in just the last 30 days.

3. Most Young People Try Alcohol for the First Time at Age 14

As if these alcohol facts weren’t already scary enough, young people are trying alcohol much earlier than you may think. A survey of the state of underage drinking in North Carolina found that the average age at which most youths try alcohol for the first time is only 14 years old. That’s young enough to mean most kids are in only 8th grade or their freshman year of high school by the time they have their first drink.

4. 38 Percent of 8th Graders Have Tried Alcohol At Least Once

We were already surprised that the average age at which people try alcohol is so young. Even so, just how many middle-schoolers have tried alcohol is just as eye-opening. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction shows that 38 percent of 8th graders have tried alcohol as least once before. That’s more than a third of 8th graders in North Carolina.

5. Teens Who Drink Before Age 15 are More Likely to Develop a Dependence

The seeds of alcohol misuse disorders are often planted at a young age, and they begin with underage drinking. A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that people who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to develop serious alcohol dependence or alcohol misuse disorders later in life than those who begin drinking at the legal age of 21. This is why it’s important parents understand the causes of teen drinking, what to look for, and how they can prevent it.

6. More Teens Use Alcohol Than Cigarettes or Marijuana

Parents already have plenty to worry about when it comes to their kids. Still, it turns out that underage drinking might be one of the biggest concerns. A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that more teens use alcohol than either cigarettes or marijuana.

7. Girls Drink Underage Slightly More Than Boys

The same study by the NIAAA found that the percentages of boys and girls who use alcohol underage are remarkably similar, with girls drinking slightly more than boys. The study discovered that 6.6 percent of boys between 14 and 15 years old had tried alcohol, while 8.6 percent of girls in the same age bracket had tried it.

8. Teen Drunk Drivers are Responsible for 17 Percent of Alcohol-Related Fatal Crashes

Underage drinking is already a frightening prospect, but it becomes even more dangerous when young people get behind the wheel of a car. Alcohol and automobiles are never a good combination.

This is especially true when an underage person is involved. Even though only 10 percent of licensed drivers are under 21, teenage drunk drivers are responsible for 17 percent of fatal alcohol-related automobile accidents.

9. More Teens Die from Alcohol Use Than All Other Illicit Drugs Combined

As if there wasn’t enough for parents to worry about, underage drinking may be a larger concern than they may think. A report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) shows that more teenagers die due to alcohol use than die from all other illicit drugs put together.

10. Teens That Use Alcohol Are at a Higher Risk of Developing Mental Illnesses

Awareness surrounding the importance of mental health continues to grow through the United States and the world. With this increased awareness also comes a deeper understanding of different factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing mental illnesses later in life.

A study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggests that teens who use alcohol put themselves at a higher risk of developing mental illnesses in the future. This includes being a higher risk of depression, psychosis, and suicide.

11. Teens Who Engage in Heavy Drinking are Three Times More Likely to Self-Harm

Underage drinking is more than a danger to others, it’s a serious danger to the teenagers themselves. In addition to increasing the likelihood of future mental illness, teens who participate in heavy drinking are three times more likely to hurt themselves than those that don’t. This includes self-harm, attempted suicide, and other self-destructive behaviors.

12. People 12 to 20 Years Old Drink 11 Percent of All Alcohol in the United States

What many parents may not know about underage drinking is how big of a problem it actually is in the United States. You may be surprised to learn that people aged 12 to 20 years old drink 11 percent of all alcohol in the U.S. That’s a lot of alcohol, and it goes to show that the problem of underage drinking is likely much larger than people realize.

13. Underage Drinking Impacts Brain Development

Plenty of people have heard that alcohol can kill brain cells. What they might not know is the impact underage drinking actually has on brain development. Research shows that teenagers who engage in heavy underage drinking may experience a major decrease in brain activity. This can have a serious impact on academic performance and future brain development.

14. Underage Drinking Costs the U.S. Over $24 Billion

Research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reveals that on top of its devastating personal tolls on young people and their families, there is also an astounding financial cost. Studies show that underage drinking cost the United States nearly $24.3 billion in 2010 alone.

That number is a combination of factors, including $3.8 billion spent on healthcare costs and $13.7 billion in lost labor and productivity. Furthermore, $6.8 billion was lost as a result of other costs, including car accidents, alcohol-related crime, and expenses related to fetal alcohol syndrome.

15. Each Day, Almost 7,000 Children Under Age 16 Have Their First Drink

Underage drinking is an ongoing problem that grows in size with each passing day. Every day, nearly 7,000 young people under age 16 take their first drink. We’ve shown the impact that underage drinking can have later in life, and this shocking fact makes preventing underage drinking even more vital.

Take the Pledge With Your Teen to Stop Underage Drinking

There’s a good chance that, as a parent, you were already familiar with many of these alcohol facts when it comes to underage drinking. What you may not have realized is how pervasive and dangerous underage drinking really is to young people across America.

This is why it’s so important that parents and teens take the pledge to start the conversation and stop underage drinking. Don’t let any more children become statistics, let’s stop underage drinking now.