Teen Question: Is it bad that I drink and I’m only 17?

At Teens Have Choices, we invite teens to ask about anything that’s on their minds, and we do our best to provide a response that is both sincere and caring, while pointing out additional resources that may be needed. If one teen is asking, we know that other teens are wondering the same thing, but may be too shy or embarrassed to ask in a group setting. There’s a feature on our website that allows teens to submit anonymous questions. We recently received this anonymous question:

Is it bad that I drink and I’m only 17?

This is a really good question! Some people, myself included, remember when the legal drinking age for beer and wine was only 18. In that context, 17 doesn’t sound so very young, but now we know a lot more about the effects of alcohol on young people!

Teens who drink alcohol are more likely to experience:

  • School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
  • Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in activities.
  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
  • Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
  • Physical and sexual assault.
  • Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
  • Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries.
  • Memory problems.
  • Abuse of other drugs.
  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
  • Death from alcohol poisoning.
Why is alcohol especially risky for teens? Alcohol is bad for developing brains! Your brain is still developing until about age 25. Some of the most important changes in the brain occur between the ages of 10-21. Changing brains are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Not only that, but the younger teens are when they start drinking, the more likely they are to have a problem with alcohol later.

The teens we’ve surveyed often say they drink to have fun, fit in, or relieve stress. Think about why you drink….

  • Do you drink to be accepted by your friends or to improve your social life?
  • Are your grades starting to slip?
  • Have you ever blacked out or forgotten things because of drinking?
  • Have you ever  tried to stop drinking and failed?
  • Do you lie about drinking?

If you answered “YES” to even one of these questions, it means alcohol is impacting your life and it’s time to get help.

Local Resources

Alateen1-888-425-2666 (1-888-4AL-ANON)
Alateen is a fellowship of young Al-Anon members, usually teenagers, whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. Call the hotline from 8 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday to find a meeting in your area.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse – 240-313-3314
Substance abuse and mental health services for teens offered by the Washington County Health Department.

ADAC (Alternative Drug and Alcohol Counseling) – 301-766-0065
Located in Hagerstown, ADAC offers a wide array of services including counseling to help resolve substance abuse issues.

Related Links

Teen Resources > Making Healthy Choices > Alcohol and Other Drugs

Above the Influence – ATI helps teens stand up to negative pressures, or influences.

The Cool Spot – The Cool Spot was created for kids 11-13 years old by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The NIAAA is the lead U.S. agency supporting research into the causes, prevention, and treatment of alcohol problems.

TeensHealth.org –  Information about alcohol, binge drinking, and what to do if you think you have a problem.

To get involved in underage drinking prevention in Washington County, please visit our page on Alcohol and Youth.

  • FACT! More teens are killed by alcohol than by all illegal drugs combined.
  • FACT! Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs.
  • FACT! Alcohol is responsible for more than 4,700 annual deaths among underage youth.
  • FACT! People aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States.
  • FACT! On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.
  • FACT! In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.

Want to know more about what teens are asking? Visit our Teen Q&A page for responses to other questions asked by local teens. Have a question you’d like to ask? You can ask it anonymously here.

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