The Problem of Alcohol and Adolescents

In the United States, public awareness about addiction and addiction counseling has grown tremendously in the past decade or two. But it’s easy to take for granted a link between awareness and recovery. Most people are more aware of the physical disease that addiction can be, and most are aware of various addiction counseling resources and support programs that are available. But this does not mean it’s any easier for those impacted to reach out, find a counselor, recognize their problem, and get the help they need.

Globally, alcohol abuse is a huge problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol abuse leads to the death of 2.5 million people each year (with many more injured or ill). 4% of all deaths are related to alcohol, says WHO, and despite education campaigns, it’s younger generations who are more at risk. Back here in the U.S., the emphasis on youth holds true: 5.9% of adolescents aged 12-14 consume alcohol on at least a monthly basis, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration. The vast majority of those receive their alcohol for free, and nearly half get it from a family member.

While many youth start drinking for peer- and social-related reasons, some turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism for underlying problems. And once they’ve reached the point or alcohol abuse and dependence, they’re at a much higher risk to develop depression and various other mental health problems, regardless of the reason they started drinking in the first place. Often, therapists and counselors find themselves working with adult clients whose problems with alcohol, family relationships, job instability, and self esteem are all intertwined—and have been for a long time.

A few other facts concerning alcohol use and mental health:

  • Addiction therapy for alcohol abuse is complicated, and different people respond better to different approaches. Individual therapy, group support, detoxification programs, and various supplemental activities (exercise, meditation, etc.) can be used quite successfully.
  • Some school-based intervention programs work better than others. (Often, awareness of the facts is not enough.)
  • Young adults with lower impulse control are more likely to abuse alcohol.
  • People who abuse alcohol or drugs in adolescence are much more likely to still be doing so during middle age. This strikes a blow to the “just being kids” excuse for not finding counseling for teens who appear to be losing control.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Kelvin


    March 2nd, 2011 at 11:52 PM

    Alcoholism should never be taken lightly. Whether it is a middle aged person or a college student the problem is just as severe and needs attention to sort it out.

    And you are very right when you say it is wrong to brush away the issue if it is teenager who is an addict.

  • Matt


    March 3rd, 2011 at 5:37 AM

    The problem is that most adults cannot handle the consequences of drinking and alcohol, so why should we expect that youngsters would be able to?



    March 3rd, 2011 at 6:10 AM

    Why is drinking considered such a cool thing to do among high school and college students? A lot of reasons I believe. But I am sure we are not doing even half enough to stop the consumption of alcohol by these youngsters. Sure there is a drinking age but what is needed is for every parent to talk to their teen about this. And not just talk but show it in action. How would you expect your teen to not abuse alcohol when you do it yourself?! Leading by example is what is required of parents.

  • destiny


    March 5th, 2011 at 7:52 PM

    A 21 year old hasn’t the ability to control their drinking much better than a 15 year old or 35 year old does. If you’re going to drink to excess, you will. It’s your nature, not your age. Bring back Prohibition I say.

  • ralph


    March 5th, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    I was offered alcohol before when I was in high school and I drank it. But I know that too much is a bad thing and I stopped after two cans of cheap beer. Heck, a whole six pack probably wouldn’t even have given me a hangover. The guy who gave me it ended up in jail over a DUI five years down the line. He was one of those the article talks about that just kept on drinking.

  • Daisy


    March 6th, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    I had a few drinks in my adolescence but I was responsible about it. I only drank at one party, and even then I only drank a few glasses.

    What needs to be taught is responsible drinking and not abstinence. Alcoholics happen because they don’t drink responsibly, and substance abuse occurs when you use it irresponsibly. Leverage the responsible angle more.

  • Phil


    March 6th, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    @Matt – correct! I think it’s odd how alcoholism is a gigantic problem, drink driving puts lives at risk, and alcohol has a hand in many crimes, and yet we do nothing to make sure they drink responsibly.

  • Megan


    March 6th, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    How can you, Phil? Unless you intend to send a chaperone home with every person when they buy a case of beer or a bottle of wine “to make sure they drink responsibly”. Is that how it will work? LOL. There’s plenty of educational material out there. It comes down to personal choice whether drinkers listen to it or not, young or old.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on