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Teen News: Teen Drinking and Drug Use Tied to Risky Behaviors

Teenager with high dopamine levels and possible addiction

Teens and risky behavior may seem to go hand in hand, and two new studies found that teen substance use leads to even riskier behaviors. Though these findings may seem like common sense, few studies have looked at the reasons why teens engage in risky behavior — especially when drinking and prescription drugs are involved.

Teen drinking statistics and statistics on teenage prescription drug abuse already show that many young people misuse substances. In 2018, around 4.3 million people aged 12–20 reported binge drinking at least once a month, and 58% of teens have drunk alcohol before the age of 18. In 2016, 3.6% of adolescents reported misusing prescription opioids.

The two studies illustrate how statistics like these translate into higher risks for teens and those around them.

Teen Drinking Can Lead to Teen Drunk Driving

Researchers found that 12th graders who reported binge drinking were more likely to drive drunk, experience blackouts, engage in risky driving and ride with other impaired drivers. In addition, those who reported binge drinking at least three times in high school were more likely to engage in the same risky behaviors.

The study discovered new teen drunk driving statistics, finding that anywhere from 23.8% to 27.2% of teens reported binge drinking. Those who reported binge drinking in their senior year were five times more likely to drive drunk within the next two years. Four years after high school, these people were still twice as likely to drive drunk.

Teen Opioid Use Can Lead to More Drug Use

Similarly to the study on teen binge drinking, the study on opioid abuse in teens found that drug abuse in adolescence causes a higher likelihood of risky behaviors. The study also showed that in 2017, 14% of adolescents reported misusing opioids within their lifetime.

The behaviors assessed involved risky driving, violence, risky sexual behavior, substance use, and suicide attempts. Across the board, teens who used opioids were more likely to engage in risky behaviors when compared to those who did not. For example, 17% of teens who used opioids drove while intoxicated, 46% fought others physically, 31% carried a weapon within the last month, 34% had sex with four or more partners and 21% attempted suicide. These rates were two to four times higher in teens who used opioids compared to those who did not.

Preventing Teen Risky Behavior

Not every parent understands how to prevent risky behaviors in their children. It’s impossible to monitor them at all times, but there are many ways to help them avoid using substances or taking dangerous risks. Talking to teenagers about drugs is a safe first step, and it allows the parent to foster an open conversation with their child. If children are informed of the risks surrounding drug use and other behaviors, they can have a better chance of avoiding them.

There are a variety of resources online that can help parents start the conversation. Positive parenting can go a long way in helping teens avoid experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Additionally, if your teen is struggling with a substance use disorder, Next Generation Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment plans and programs that can work well for your child’s situation.


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Underage Drinking.” January 2020. Accessed February 7, 2020.

Department of Health and Human Services. “Opioids and Adolescents.” May 13, 2019. Accessed February 7, 2020.

Vaca, Federico; et al. “Longitudinal Associations of 12th-Grade Binge Drinking With Risky Driving and High-Risk Drinking.” Pediatrics, February 2020. Accessed February 7, 2020.

Rapaport, Lisa. “Teen drinking, drug use tied to other risky behaviors.” Reuters, January 7, 2020. Accessed February 7, 2020.

Bhatia, Devika; et al. “Prescription Opioid Misuse and Risky Adolescent Behavior.” Pediatrics, February 2020. Accessed February 7, 2020.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Family Checkup.” October 2019. Accessed February 7, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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