You may be surprised to discover that most of your peers do not drink alcohol. National surveys of youth tell us that less than two out of 10 12-17 year-olds are drinking. That means 82 percent are not! So when others try to talk you into drinking by saying “everyone else is doing it,” you will know that isn’t true.
It is important for you to have the facts when faced with the decision whether or not to drink. These pages will provide you with the information you need to know about alcohol and give you the tools to make healthy choices.
Know the facts
Your brain and body are still developing in your teen years. Because of this, the use of alcohol can have a severe, negative impact on you and your future. Youth who begin drinking by age 15 are five times more likely to develop drinking problems as adults.
Alcohol affects your brain. Drinking alcohol leads to a loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses, and even blackouts.
Alcohol affects your body. Long-term or excessive alcohol use can damage every organ in your body. It is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and can increase your risk for a variety of life-threatening diseases, including cancer.
Alcohol affects your judgment and self-control. Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, lowers your inhibitions, and impairs your judgment. Drinking can lead to risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex. This may expose you to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases or cause unwanted pregnancy.
Alcohol can kill you. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to coma or even death. It also puts you at higher risk for death due to injuries, violence, and car crashes.
Alcohol can hurt you - even if you're not the one drinking. If you're around people who are drinking, you have an increased risk of being seriously injured, involved in car crashes, or affected by violence. At the very least, you may have to deal with people who are sick, out of control, or unable to take care of themselves.
Alcohol is illegal and unsafe for those under 21. Underage drinking is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined. Underage drinkers also risk legal penalties that can have longer term negative impacts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Are beer and wine "safer" than liquor?
A. No. One 12-ounce beer has about as much alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a wine cooler. Certain malt beverages, such as fortified beer, may have a higher alcohol content than others.
Q. Why can't teens drink if their parents can?
A. Teen bodies are still developing and alcohol has a greater negative impact on their physical and mental well-being than on adults.
Q. How can I say no to alcohol? I'm afraid I won't fit in.
A. Remember, you're in good company. The majority of teens don't drink alcohol. Also, it's not as hard to refuse as you might think. Try: "No thanks," "I don't drink," or "I'm not interested."
Information provided by:
SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, call the Recovery Helpline at 1-866-789-1511.