Alcohol 101


Why Do Teens Drink Alcohol
Teens drink for a variety of reasons. Some teens want to experience new things. Others feel pressured into drinking by peers. And some are looking for a way to cope with stress or other problems. Unfortunately, drinking will only make any problems a person already has worse, not better.

What is a Standard Drink?
Many people are surprised to learn what counts as a drink. The amount of liquid in your glass, can, or bottle is not necessarily equal to how much alcohol is in your drink. A standard drink is:

  • 12 ounces of beer (about 5% alcohol)
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor – beer with a high alcohol content (about 7% alcohol)
  • 5 ounces of table wine (about 12% alcohol)
  • 5 ounces (a “shot”) of liquor, like gin, rum, vodka, tequila, or whiskey (about 40% alcohol)

No level of drinking is safe or legal for anyone under age 21, but unfortunately many teens drink—and they often drink multiple drinks, which is very dangerous.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Teenage Brain
When teens drink, alcohol affects their brains in the short-term – but repeated drinking can also impact it down the road, especially as their brains grow and develop.

Short-Term Consequences of Intoxication (being “drunk”):

  • An intoxicated person has a harder time making good decisions.
  • A person is less aware that his/her behavior may be inappropriate or risky.
  • A person may be more likely to engage in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, sexual activity (like unprotected sex) and aggressive or violent behavior.
  • A person is less likely to recognize potential danger.

Long-Term Consequences as the Teen Brain Develops:

  • Research shows that drinking during the teen years could interfere with normal brain development and change the brain in ways that:
    • Have negative effects on information processing and learning.
    • Increase the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder later in life.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

To learn more about substance abuse and how to find help, visit Start Your Recovery

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