Alcohol Substance Abuse in Teenagers

The Dangers of Underage Drinking

As you are most likely aware, in the United States, any consumption of alcohol of an individual under the age of 21 is strictly against the law. Drinking underage comes with serious legal consequences including mandatory community service, suspended license, fines and potential time in jail. Not only do underage drinkers put themselves in danger, but they also put others in jeopardy if they get behind the wheel or exhibit violent behavior.

Statistically, teens consume most of their alcohol by binge drinking. Meaning, they consume an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time, often with the goal of “getting drunk.”

What is Binge Drinking?

For many, there is something appealing about a “binge,” whether this be to appear “the life of the party”, or to let go of responsibility. There’s something appealing about it – until you have to face the consequences, and a lot of them. When it comes to alcohol, a binge can have its consequences – and can even be deadly for the drinker or those around him or her.

What is a standard drink

Binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl. This typically happens when men drink five or more alcoholic beverages or women drink more than four alcoholic beverages in a period of two hours.

Binge Drinking in Illinois

The Illinois drinking statistics are surprising, with the state having a higher percentage of binge drinkers across virtually all demographics than the national averages. In the US, 22.1% of adult males and 12.2% of adult females exhibit the identifiers of binge drinking. In Illinois, the numbers are greater with 25.9% of men and 15.1% of women binge drinking.

Source: SAMHSA

Bing Drinking Graphic in the US

Social Hosting

Social hosting refers to adults who either knowingly or unknowingly host underage drinking on their property. The danger of social hosting for adults is that it does not matter who supplied the alcohol, it’s all about the owner of the property the crime of underage drinking is being committed on.

In Illinois, the Social Host Law, which went into effect January 1, 2013, holds adults accountable for underage drinking that occurs in their home. If a minor who had been drinking at your house injures or kills someone, you are guilty of a Class 4 felony. This could result in a fine and/or jail time.


Teens social hosting

Alcohol Use Disorders in Teens

While it can be difficult to determine whether a child is “just experimenting” or if they are struggling with drinking to the point of an alcohol use disorder, an alcohol use is an issue when the child is underage.

If you are concerned about you or someone you love, it’s best to get an assessment from a professional. If you are worried drinking habits are bordering an alcohol use disorder, consider the following:

  1. Has the individual’s drinking or hangovers interfered with their responsibilities, such as a job, school, home or sports?
  2. Has there been times when the individual has ended up drinking more or longer than they intended?
  3. Have they wanted to cut down or stop drinking, tried to, but couldn’t?
    Have they more than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased their chances of getting hurt (such as driving, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex) or harming others?
Teenager asleep in school

Talking to Your Kids

Parents face a tough dilemma about substance use: we may want our children to abstain from alcohol and drug use but what do we do if they are not? Besides the effects of substance use on the developing brain, teens using substances may face very serious consequences.

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Signs of Teen Drug or Alcohol Use

Figuring out if your child is using drugs or alcohol may pose a challenge. Many of the very early signs and symptoms could just be typical teen or young adult behavior. Many may also be signs of mental health issues, including depression or anxiety.

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Find Help

Find Additional Resources for Crisis Help, Support Groups and Substance Abuse Treatement.

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