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Underage Drinking in High School

Underage Drinking in High School

Once a teen enters high school and college, the risk of alcohol abuse is at its peak. An alarming trend among people in this age group is binge drinking, which, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, is consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days. 

The risks, consequences and behaviors of binge drinkers are alarming. Compared to nondrinkers, teen binge drinkers are more likely to participate in risky behaviors. They are 11 times more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, 19 times more likely to be smokers and four times more likely to be in a physical fight. They are also four times more likely to have ever been raped or subjected to dating violence and four times more likely to have attempted suicide. 

And while binge drinking is common in high school, teens are also going so far as to get intoxicated by using vodka-soaked tampons, mixing alcohol with prescription pills and/or marijuana, and experimenting with candy soaked in alcohol. 


Signs and symptoms (binge drinking) 

Extreme confusion 

Inability to be awakened 



Slow or irregular breathing 

Low body temperature 

Bluish or pale skin 


Possible risks 

Alcohol poisoning. This affects such involuntary reflexes as breathing and the gag reflex. If the gag reflex isn’t working properly, a person can choke to death. 

Impaired judgment. Binge drinkers are more likely to take risks—such as drinking and driving—they might not take when they’re sober.  

Sexual activity. Impaired judgment can also lead to unprotected sex, putting teens at greater risk of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or unplanned pregnancy. 

Physical health. Studies show that binge drinkers in high school are more likely to be overweight and have high blood pressure by the time they are 24.  

Mental health. Binge drinking disrupts sleep patterns, which can make it harder to stay awake and concentrate at school. This can lead to poor academic performance. It can also affect personality; people might become angry or moody while drinking. 

Alcoholism. Studies have shown that people who have three or more episodes of binge drinking in two weeks have some of the symptoms of alcoholism. 


What you can do 

Emphasize what alcohol/drug use can do to your teen’s future. Discuss how substance abuse can ruin their chance of getting into college or landing the job of their dreams. 

Don’t be vague. Give real examples of teens that used alcohol and were kicked off a sports team or had a college admission rescinded. 

Use the news. If you see a news story about an alcohol-related car accident, talk to your teen about the victims an accident leaves in its wake. 

Continue talking about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, and about your expectations. Every day, your teen may be faced with the pressure to drink. Talking about substance abuse should continue through the teen years and into college.

Conversation starters 

If you saw a friend intoxicated, would you leave them? 

Say you were at a party where alcohol was being served. If you weren’t drinking and the police showed up, what would you do? 

If you found yourself in a situation where all of your friends were drinking, what would you do? 

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