Children at Risk

Binge drinking is both a common problem and a risk factor for other substance use. In 2000, the rate of binge drinking among underage youth was 19%, almost as high as among adults (21%). Further, we know that if a teenager binge drinks, s/he is more likely to take other drugs. Studies show that underage binge drinkers are 7 times more likely to have used illicit drugs during the past month than non-bingers. Combination substance use also makes matters worse. For example, teenagers who use both cigarettes and alcohol are more than twice as likely to use drugs than teenagers who use only cigarettes or alcohol.


Alcohol and drug use among teens is common, and kids are experimenting at an earlier age. For instance, alcohol use can start before age 12, and the average age of first marijuana use is 14. As kids get older, the rates climb sharply, beginning at age 12 (1%) and peaking at age 21 (23%). Typically, abuse begins in the teens. Withdrawal can occur at any age if a drug has been taken in high-enough doses over a long-enough period of time. Dependence can also occur at any age, but typically first appears in the 20s or older.


The problem is similar for females and males (8%)