Research indicates that the younger one starts to use tobacco or consume alcohol, the more likely he or she will have a problem with alcohol or tobacco later in life. This is troubling, because almost one-third of all teenagers report having their first drink of alcohol before age 13, most often due to the encouragement of their peers.
A report titled Malignant Neglect: Substance Abuse and America’s Schools, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that if a student gets to the age of 21 without smoking or using alcohol, he or she is much less likely to use or become dependent as an adult.
- 15% of individuals who become alcohol dependent begin to drink before the age of 18.
- 32% of individuals who become alcohol dependent begin to drink between ages 18-22.
Adolescent binge drinkers (5 or more drinks at one sitting for males; 4 or more drinks in one sitting for females) are 17 times more likely to smoke than non-binge drinkers.
Because adolescence is a time of intense emotional growth and changes, the dis-inhibiting effects of alcohol can encourage unsafe sex, which at times results in sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), sexual aggression or unplanned pregnancy. Psychological immaturity is another problem. Just three drinks for a younger user can cause significantly more mental impairment than in an adult drinker.
Heavy use of alcohol (and other drugs) in adolescence tends to limit emotional growth; so, if alcohol is used heavily throughout teenage years, recovery in adulthood often not only involves changing alcohol use, but also undergoing emotional changes and maturation that did not occur during adolescence.
Finally, it has been found that:
- 70% if teen suicides involve alcohol or other drugs;
- 50% of date rapes involve alcohol (victim and/or the rapist);
- 40% of drownings involve alcohol.
Inaba, D & Cohen, W. E. (2007). Uppers, downers, all arounders. (6th ed.). Medford, OR: CNS Publications.
National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse [CASA]. (2001). Malignant neglect: Substance abuse and America’s schools. Retrieved from http://www.casacolumbia.org/articlefiles/380-Malignant%20Neglect.pdf
National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse [CASA]. (2002). Dangerous liaisons: Substance abuse and sexual behavior. Retrieved from http://www.casacolumbia.org/articlefiles/379-Dangerous%20Liaisons.pdf
Nelson, R. (2007). Younger onset of alcohol dependence correlates with less help seeking. CNS News, 9(1), 19, 25.