High numbers of 12 to 14 year olds report drinking alcohol

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Young adolescents and alcohol

A study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals an estimated 709,000 12 to 14 year olds currently drink alcohol, many of whom say they get it free from family or friends.

According to the study results, 93.4 percent of adolescents reported they obtained alcohol for free from parents or guardians at home or family members.

SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D warns giving alcohol to adolescents sets them up for the development of alcohol problems. She says parents need to be aware of the risks.


“People who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are six times more likely than those who start at age 21 and older to develop alcohol problems", she warns, adding that "providing alcohol to children can expose them to an increased risk for alcohol abuse and set them on a path with increased potential for addiction”

The findings come from SAMHSA’s 2006 to 2009 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) that included more than 44000 respondents age 12 to 14 that tracks information on national use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs and mental health in the United States.

One of the initiatives of SAMHSA is to prevent alcohol abuse. In the study, 44.8 percent of 12 to 14 year olds obtained free alcohol from family or at home. The researchers note the findings highlight the importance of family involvement for reducing the availability of alcohol in young adolescents that can lead to behavioral health problems and addiction.