Patient & Visitor InformationContact Us
  • Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)

  • The Adolescent Alcohol Problem

  • In GeneralAccording to the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there are an estimated 10.8 million underage (12-20 years) current alcohol users within the United States, 19.2% of which engage in heavy episodic use and 6.2% are heavy users [1].

    According to the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System 2007, nearly a quarter of high school students nationwide (23.8%) reported used alcohol prior to age 13 [2]. Similarly, an analysis of the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHNES) indicates that among 12-17 year olds surveyed 16% had a drink before age 13 and 8% at age 10 or younger [3]. This number is even higher for youth that reported current alcohol use. Of those 12-17 year olds that reported current alcohol use, 33% had their first alcoholic drink before age 13 and 18.5% at age 10 or younger.

    Terminology used:

    • Current alcohol use: at least one drink in the past 30 days
    • Heavy episodic use: five or more drinks (men) or four or more drinks (women) on one occasion in the past 30 days
    • Heavy use: Five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days.

    forms of risky alcohol use[4]:

    • Hazardous: a pattern of alcohol consumption that increases the patient's risk of negative consequences
    • Harmful: alcohol use that results in negative consequences
    • Dependence: prolonged alcohol use results in behavioral, cognitive and physiological issues including a strong desire to consume alcohol, alcohol use despite the presence of negative consequences, priority given to alcohol over other activities, increased tolerance and physical withdrawal when not using alcohol.

    Usage, both current and heavy episodic use increase throughout the adolescent experience.

    Current Use Among Persons Aged 12-20, NSDUH 2007

    Current Use

    Rates of Heavy Episodic Use , NSDUH 2007

    Rates of Heavy Episodic UseCurrent Use and Heavy Episodic Use Among High School Students, YRBS 2007

    Current Use and Heavy Episodic Use Among High School Students

    Early initiation and heavy episodic use by youth is concerning because of the strong relationships between alcohol use and other behaviors such as sex without contraception, delinquency, school failure, and school drop-out [5-10]. Additionally, early onset of alcohol use in adolescence increases the risk of problems later in life, including later alcohol dependency [11]. Those who initiate prior to age 13 are more likely to report delinquent behavior in the future [12].

    Current Topic: The Adolescent Alcohol Problem
    In Depth
    Resources

    Next: Role of Alcohol in Adolescent Injury