Promoting Responsible Alcohol Use

Promoting Responsible Alcohol Use

According to a recent study in JAMA Pediatrics, 10% of high school seniors engage in “extreme binge drinking” which is defined as consuming 10 or more drinks in a row.  Over 16,000 seniors were included in this survey and 5.6% reported drinking 15 or more drinks in a row in the prior two weeks.

These are pretty shocking statistics and high school students who are consuming this much alcohol are clearly at high risk for a number of dangerous behaviors and negative outcomes.  In addition, these statistics only represent extreme binge drinking and obviously many more teenagers are consuming alcohol with statistics from SAMHSA indicating that when surveyed up to 50% of underage persons consumed alcohol within the month.

This all leads to the question: what can parents do to prevent alcohol abuse in their children and teens?

  • Build and maintain a positive relationship with your child.  Research suggests that an overall positive relationship between parent and child protects against future substance abuse and has many other benefits as well.  Important factors to consider are parents and children developing and discussing shared interests, as well as parents communicating a clear interest in their child’s activities, school environment, friends and hobbies.  Parents should also strive to create an environment of open, honest and calm communication.
  • Monitor your child.  It is important as children get older that they establish age-appropriate independence and at the same time, parents should continue to carefully supervise their children’s activities and social relationships.  Although parents cannot, and need not, be with their children at all times, it is important to know how teenagers spend unsupervised time and with whom and to check in on them during this time.  Parents should also show an interest in their children’s friendships and get to know their friends, and ideally their friend’s parents as well.
  • Model appropriate behavior.  Like it or not, parents have a pretty big spotlight on them and they should act with this knowledge.  It can be very important for parents to model appropriate alcohol consumption, which includes not drinking in excess and not using alcohol (or other substances) as a primary method to manage stress.
  • Talk to your children about alcohol (and drugs) early and often.  One of the most powerful things that parents can do to prevent alcohol and substance abuse in their children is to communicate their feelings about this subject, such as by saying “I do not want you to drink or use drugs.”  Ideally parents will keep such conversations brief and positive and have such conversations more than one time.  Parents can seize opportunities that arise in everyday life as conversation starters, such as the media coverage of a celebrity’s substance use, the plotline on a television show or the awareness of a substance problem in someone they know.  Parents should share their concerns and feelings about using alcohol and also hear from their teen about their feelings on this topic.  It can also be helpful for parents to talk to teens about alternatives to use.

These are just a few tips and more extensive information and recommendations are available at:

The Partnership at

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):