Alcohol Use Among Teens
At the New Jersey Family and Addiction Institute we see clients from Florham Park, Madison, Chatham, Morristown, Summit, and other surrounding towns. One of the most common inquiries we get is from parents after they catch their high school child with alcohol or their child gets into legal trouble. Other times we get contacted by parents concerned about their children in college and their drinking.
Years ago alcohol abuse among teens and young adults was a major focus of governmental agencies, schools, and other organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. With the worsening of the opioid crisis the focus has shifted to trying to slow the rising opioid overdose death rates.
However alcohol continues to be the most used substance amongst teenagers. Boys usually take their first drink at age 11 and girls take their first drink at 13.
Millions of adolescents drink alcohol. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) conducts an annual survey called the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. This survey tracks the use of alcohol and drugs among teens. The chart below shows alcohol use in the past year among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders.
Opioids are very serious and need to continue to remain in the spotlight. However as the chart above illustrates alcohol continues to be widely used among youth. The MTF study also found some other important statistics.
Past-month use of alcohol was 8.2%, 18.6%, and 30.2% among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders respectively.
Ridgedale middle school is located in Florham Park and has approximately 340 students in grades 6-8. When graduation comes around in June just over 100 8th graders will move onto high school. The ceremony is on the front lawn of the school and many attended. Family and friends come out to celebrate the accomplishment and transition onto the next stage in life.
While this is a time of celebration I do feel a twinge of sadness as I look at the kids on the platform. I know statistically that among this group of very young adults that 8-10 of the 100 graduates have drank alcohol in the past month.
I find this so concerning because consuming alcohol is not a harmless activity. It can have tremendous negative consequences up to and including death. Right now parents and the country overall is hypersensitive to anything and everything to do with opioids. I applaud the efforts we are taking and hope to see them continue.
However please remember that alcohol use is much more prevalent and can have just as serious consequences.
What do I do if I am Concerned About my Child Drinking Alcohol
First underage alcohol use is illegal. While here at the New Jersey Family and Addiction Institute we do not believe in telling parents how to raise their children we do seek to educate. We do not weigh in on the morality of drinking in the home with parents etc. However we do want parents to know that underage alcohol use is associated with adverse effects. A child’s brain is continues until they are in their 20’s. We are here to provide education, guidance, and assistance for those who have loved for whom alcohol is an issue. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol please call us to set up a consultation.