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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

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Alcohol Awareness Month: Raising Awareness about the Dangers of Alcohol Use Among Teens

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, an opportunity to update your knowledge about the adverse effects of alcohol misuse on health and society. It is also a good time to talk to teens about drinking and to equip them with the knowledge to handle situations involving alcohol. Even teens who would not normally be tempted to drink alcohol may be drawn in by certain social situations, so don’t assume they have all the facts they need to resist peer pressure. Parents and trusted adults can play a meaningful role in shaping youth’s attitudes toward drinking.

Alcohol-related problems continue to take a heavy toll on individuals, families, and communities. Researchers estimate that each year there are more than 178,000 alcohol-related deaths, making alcohol a leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Alcohol is a significant factor in the deaths of people younger than age 21 in the United States. This includes deaths from motor vehicle crashes, homicides, alcohol overdoses, falls, burns, drownings, and suicides. Research indicates that alcohol misuse during the teenage years can interfere with normal adolescent brain development. Alcohol use during adolescence also significantly increases the risk of developing alcohol use disorder later in life, and the earlier a teen starts, the higher the risk. In addition, more than 200 disease and injury-related conditions are associated with alcohol misuse.

Here are some resources from NIAAA to inform teens and their parents—as well as people such as educators, coaches, and faith group leaders who work with teens—about the detrimental health effects of underage alcohol use:

  • Facts About Teen Drinking: Designed for teens, this website contains in-depth information about how alcohol affects health, how to identify signs of an alcohol problem, and how to get help.
  • NIAAA for Middle School: This website contains interactive activities to help parents, caregivers, and teachers introduce and reinforce key messages about peer pressure, resistance skills, and other important topics related to underage drinking.
  • Alcohol and Your Brain: A Virtual Reality Experience: This educational experience shares age-appropriate messages through engaging visuals, informative billboards, and narration.
  • Kahoot! quiz about underage drinking: This quiz can be taken at home or in the classroom to help teens gain a better understanding of underage drinking. Topics covered in the quiz are negative health consequences associated with drinking, signs of an alcohol problem, and how to find support.

More NIAAA resources about drinking during adolescence are available on our underage drinking landing page, including resources for talking to kids about alcohol. Parents and other adults can make a difference in helping teens make the right decisions when it comes to alcohol and preventing underage drinking. Having conversations with them about alcohol is a strong start. Another strong start is to understand your key function as a role model when it comes to alcohol. Adolescents are less likely to drink heavily when the adults in their life demonstrate responsible behavior regarding their own alcohol use and when they live in homes where parents/guardians have specific rules against drinking at a young age.

In addition, for adults, the Rethinking Drinking website features interactive calculators as well as tips and strategies to cut down or quit drinking. The Alcohol Treatment Navigator walks individuals through the process of finding treatment options and recovery resources. Whether you are seeking more information about what alcohol use disorder is, are thinking about cutting back on alcohol, are a parent looking for information about how to talk to your child about alcohol, or a health care professional looking for how to help patients with alcohol-related problems, NIAAA can help.

Best wishes,
George F. Koob, Ph.D.
NIAAA Director

Need Help for an Alcohol Problem?

If you’re having an emergency, call 911. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 911, go to the nearest emergency room or call the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to help you through this difficult time.

The NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator can help you recognize and find high quality treatment for alcohol use disorder. If you drink excessively, seek medical help to plan a safe recovery as sudden abstinence can be life threatening. NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking can help you assess your drinking habits and provides information to help you cut back or stop drinking.

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