The legal drinking age in the United States is 21. However, many people begin drinking while they are still a teenager. Not only is teenage drinking a common problem, but the age at which teens start drinking has declined in recent years. In 1965, the average age that a person had their first drink was 17.5. In 2003, 14 was the average age of the first-time alcohol user. According to the NCADD (National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence), teens who begin drinking by age 15 are five times more likely to become alcohol dependent later in life.
Drinking Early in Life Could Lead to Alcoholism
People who start drinking early in life are more likely to develop alcoholism in the future. In fact, one study showed that people who drink before the age of 15 were four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence. Studies have also shown that the younger a person is when they start drinking, the more likely they are to harm themselves and others.
Early drinking has been linked to risky sexual behavior. Teens who drink are twice as likely to have sex. They are also more likely to have risky sex. Furthermore, teens who drink are more likely to use other drugs and be engaged in a violent act.
Binge Drinking and Risky Behavior
There have been many efforts made to deter teenage drinking. Many schools also have programs that warn people about the dangers of underage drinking. However, studies have shown that most teens have had a drink before they graduate from high school. In fact, approximately 75 percent of 12 graders have consumed alcohol. Two-thirds of students in the 10th grade have consumed alcohol, and 20 percent of eight-graders have consumed alcohol.
Many teenagers are also binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as the act of consuming many alcoholic beverages in a short amount of time. One study showed that 29 percent of 12th graders, 22 percent of 10th graders and 11 percent of eighth graders have done binge drinking before.
Binge drinking is not only linked to risky behavior, but it can also cause serious health problems. Drinking too much at one time can lead to alcohol poisoning, which is a life-threatening condition. Long-term effects of binge drinking include liver damage, high blood pressure and heart problems.
Environmental Factors Play a Role
It is important to note that there are many factors that put a teen at risk for early drinking. One of those factors is family history. Children who have alcoholic parents are four to 10 times more likely to have a problem with alcohol themselves. Environmental factors, such as peer pressure, have also been linked to teen alcohol use.
If you suspect that a teen you know is in the beginning stages of experimenting with alcohol, please pay attention to the warning signs and get help before this problem escalates out of control.