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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Teen Drinking and Binge Drinking

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Nov 8th 2013

Teen Drinking and Binge Drinking The problem is not just that teenagers are drinking but that they are binge drinking. This is what is often part of a game to see who can drink the most in the shortest amount of time. At the upper limits of binge drinking this means that teens are drinking 15 or more drinks at one sitting. The lower limit of binge drinking is 5 drinks at one sitting. Drinking ten or more drinks would put the drug alcohol level at 5 times the limit for adults. The risks associated with this amount of intake of alcohol are great. For example, national surveys show that emergency room visits are greatly increased as a result of underage binge drinking. Much of this information is reported in JAMA Pediatrics between 2005 and 2011 involving more than 16,000 high school seniors.

Another vignette from this and other studies is that young men were more apt to say they binge drink than young women, and white students were more likely binge drinkers than ethnic minorities at the lower levels — but once it got up to 15 drinks or more, all ethnic groups were equally susceptible. Students with more educated parents were more likely to binge at the 5- and 10-drink levels, but not at 15-plus. Students in rural areas were more likely to indulge in extreme binge drinking.

Another statistic that shows just how serious the problem of teenage drinking is that in 2011, 70 percent of 12th-graders said they had a drink at least once in their lives, and 51 percent said they had gotten drunk.

The following information is from SAMSHA, also known as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and can be found in greater detail and with additional information at this URL:


Be Aware of Factors That May Increase the Risk of a Child’s Alcohol Use, Including:

» Significant social transitions such as graduating to middle or high school or getting a driver’s license;
» A history of social and emotional problems;
» Depression and other serious emotional problems;
» A family history of alcoholism; and
» Contact with peers involved in troubling activities.

Be a Positive Adult Role Model.

» Stay away from alcohol in high-risk situations. For example, do not operate a vehicle after drinking alcohol.
» Get help if you think you have an alcohol-related problem.
» Do not give alcohol to your children. Tell them that any alcohol in your home is off limits to them and to their friends.

Work With Schools, Communities, and the Government to Protect Children From Underage Alcohol Use by Ensuring That:

» Schools and the community support and reward young people’s decisions not to drink;
» Schools and the community identify and intervene with children engaged in underage drinking early;
» Rules about underage drinking are in place at home, at school, and in your community;


Over the last several decades, scientific understanding and knowledge of the dangers of underage drinking have increased substantially. Underage drinking is associated with various negative consequences for children and can affect and endanger the lives of those around them.

Children who drink alcohol are more likely to:

* Use drugs

* Frequent binge drinkers (nearly 1 million high school students nationwide) are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including using other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.

* Get bad grades

* Children who use alcohol have higher rates of academic problems and poor school performance compared with nondrinkers.

* Suffer injury or death:
In 2009, an estimated 1,844 homicides; 949,400 nonfatal violent crimes such as rape, robbery, and assault; and 1,811,300 property crimes, including burglary, larceny, and car theft were attributed to underage drinking.

* Engage in risky sexual activity

* Young people who use alcohol are more likely to be sexually active at earlier ages, to have sexual intercourse more often, and to have unprotected sex.

* Make bad decisions:
Drinking lowers inhibitions and increases the chances that children will engage in risky behavior or do something that they will regret when they are sober.

* Have health problems
Young people who drink are more likely to have health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders.

SAMSHA strongly urges parents to talk to their kids about drinking and the dangers it poses. It is best to do this in small segments rather than overwhelm them with one long and lengthy talk.

Once again, this and more information can be found at SAMSHA:

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD


Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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