American teenagers are drinking more than ever! Underage drinkers account for one-fourth of the nations alcohol consumption according to a synopsis sponsored by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (Reaves). Alcohol use is the number one drug problem among young people. More teenagers drink alcohol than smoke tobacco or marijuana. Drinking has become a social tradition in the lives of young Americans. Although the legal drinking age in the United States is 21, it is suggested that almost all young people use alcohol before they are of age. Unfortunately parents tend to see drinking as a rite of passage and come to accept it (Bonnie 35). As problems continue to grow with underage drinking, researchers have found that the amount of underage drinkers is on the rise, alcohol is a contributing factor in risky behavior, and the media plays an influential part among young teens decisions.
A survey conducted over two years, found that over 5 million high school students (or 31 percent) binge drink at least once a month. Binge drinking, which is defined as having five or more drinks in a sitting, increased 56 percent among 18-to 20-year-olds, who are too young to drink legally (Reaves, cbsnews.com). For the first time ever, teenage girls are almost likely to drink as much as teen boys. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) found that overall alcohol use among teens involved 48% of girls and 52% of boys. "Experts say alcohol is more problematic for women, who metabolize it more slowly and become intoxicated more quickly than men. They also tend to become alcohol-dependent faster" (Thomas). Forty percent of ninth graders (male and female) admit to drinking at least occasionally. By their senior year in high school, 80 percent of teenagers had tried alcohol (Reaves). In a survey of Americans age 12-17, the average person took their first drink before age 13. Teens who use alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely to be alcohol dependent than adults whose first drink is at the age of 21.