Youth and Alcohol

  • WARNING for teens and women of childbearing age.  The CDC states that women ages 15-44 should avoid alcohol unless they are using birth control. Alcohol can harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant.  The CDC estimates more than 3 million women are at risk of exposing a developing fetus to alcohol. This warning is to reduce the cases of fetal alcohol syndrome.    (CBS Morning News, USA Today, February 3, 2016)

  • PARENTS:  For young people, alcohol is the drug of choice. In fact, alcohol is used by more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs. Although most children under age 14 have not yet begun to drink, early adolescence is a time of special risk for beginning to experiment with alcohol.

    While some parents
    and guardians may feel relieved that their teen is "only" drinking, it is important to remember that alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug. Not only does alcohol affect the mind and body in often unpredictable ways, but teens lack the judgment and coping skills to handle alcohol wisely.

    As a result:  The message is clear: 
    Alcohol use is very risky business for young people. And the longer children delay alcohol use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it. That’s why it is so important to help your child avoid any alcohol use.

    The best way to influence your child to avoid drinking is to have a strong, trusting relationship with him or her. Research shows that teens are much more likely to delay drinking when they feel they have a close, supportive tie with a parent or guardian. Moreover, if your son or daughter eventually does begin to drink, a good relationship with you will help protect him or her from developing alcohol-related problems.

    The opposite is also true:
    When the relationship between a parent and teen is full of conflict or is very distant, the teen is more likely to use alcohol and to develop drinking-related problems.

    This connection between the parent–child relationship and a child’s drinking habits makes a lot of sense when you think about it. First, when children have a strong bond with a parent, they are apt to feel good about themselves and therefore be less likely to give in to peer pressure to use alcohol. Second, a good relationship with you is likely to encourage your children to try to live up to your expectations, because they want to maintain their close tie with you.  For ways to build a strong, supportive bond with your child, view College Drinking - Changing the culture at
    Or A Parent’s Guide to Substance Abuse on Campus at ""

  • The terrible impact of alcohol on many young brains is now medically established.  (source:

  • Most incidents of rape among college students involve the consumption of alcohol or drugs.   Drugs and alcohol impede judgment and the ability to react and think clearly.  In addition, date rape drugs are dropped into alcohol.  (source:  “Protecting Students From Sexual Assault, The U.S. Department of Justice, 2016 study released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics); Zinzow, et al. (2011), Krebs, et al. (2016), and Fisher, B. S., Daigle, L. E., Cullen, F. T., & Turner, M. G. (2003). “Reporting sexual victimization to the police and others: Results from a national-level study of college women [external link].” Criminal Justice and Behavior, 30(1), 6-38)

  • In 2014 in Spokane County, 11% of adolescents reported binge drinking (higher than that of Washington state (9%).  Binge drinking increased as age increased.  (Spokane Counts 2015, Spokane Regional Health District) 

  • Children whose parents allow them to sip adult beverages are more likely to become problem drinkers, according to research.  They are 5 times more likely to have downed a full glass of booze by the 9th grade, and 4 times more likely to be binge drinkers.    (New York Daily News, reported on CBS Morning News, April 1, 2015)
  • The adolescent brain is more vulnerable to brain damage, toxins and addiction, because adult warning signals do not occur in the adolescent brain.  Children who start drinking before the age of 14 are much more likely to be chemically dependent later on in life.  40% of children who start drinking at age 14 or younger report having problems with chemical dependency, compared with 10% of those who wait until they turn 21, the legal drinking age in Washington.   (Information about Alcohol and Medicine, Alcohol MD, Adolescent Drinking,
  • In 2014, 14% of adolescents reported using an illicit drug in the last month in Spokane County.  Research related to substance use by adolescent youth is clear.  Findings indicate that substance use is linked to a wide range of academic, social, mental and physical consequences including poor academic progress, dropping out of school, increased risky behaviors, teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency and crime (Hawkins et al. 1992).  For example, Mandell and colleagues (2002) found that moderate substance use among middle and high school students substantially lowered overall academic achievement (standardized test scores) – a full level – as compared to groups of students with minimal or no engagement in substance use.  
    (April 2015 Washington State Needs Assessment Profile, Adolescent Substance Abuse, p. 70.

  • Youth who drink before the age of 15 are 6 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21.  (CDC report, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings)

What You Can Do
  • Other communities have achieved success in reducing drug and alcohol use among teens. View their stories and advice at Time for Family.  

  • Warn Boys and Youth:  There are 4 ways a man's health affects his offspring.  A fathers lifestyle may have far more effect on a child's health than doctors originally believed. Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center found, that there are 4 ways a man's health affects his offspring:
1)  An alcoholic father raises the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome and developmental difficulties, as three quarters of babies with fetal alcohol problems had fathers who were alcoholics.
2)  Kids of older fathers (40 and older) have higher rates of schizophrenia, autism, and birth defects.
3)  Your dad's diet impacts how you react to food.
4)  A dad who smokes may cause DNA damage.
Fertility specialists say men are not immune to reproductive aging.  A man's lifestyle, age, and genetics can play just as significant a role in the health of a baby as the mother's health.  ("Dads lifestyle linked to kids' health issues," and "Influence of paternal preconception exposures on their offspring: through epigenetics to phenotype," American Journal of Stem Cells, April 2016)
  • Success with alcohol and drug addiction has a lot to do with parents spending quantity time, not just quality time, with their teens. 

    “The quantity of time (not just quality time) parents spend does indeed matter during adolescence.  The more time a teen spends engaged with their mother, at the fewer instances of delinquent behavior.  And the more time teens spend with both their parents together in family time, such as during meals, the less likely they are to abuse drugs and alcohol and engage in other risky or illegal behavior.  And the more time teens spend with both their parents together in family time, such as during meals, the less likely they are to abuse drugs and alcohol and engage in other risky or illegal behavior.”  (Source:  Journal of Marriage and Family, and The Washington Post, March 2015) 

    “Rather than the occasional expensive family vacation alone, research shows the satisfaction with regularly occurring home-based family activities such as eating dinner together, participating in hobbies and informal sports and yard activities together, watching television together, or playing board games together with the father present was the single strongest predictor of all aspects of family functioning, particularly from the youth perspective,” said Ramon B. Zabriskie, professor in BYU’s Marriott School.  What it means is that when it comes to taking a young teen to soccer practice, the time in the car with mom or dad is probably more important than the time on the field with a coach.  (Source:  "Everyday time with dad builds family bond," by Lois M. Collins, Deseret News, June 15, 2012)

    SUCCESS in Iceland:  Iceland experienced unprecedented success at reducing teenage substance abuse for 20 years.  Iceland’s teens were among Europe’s greatest abusers of drugs and alcohol in 1997, but the majority of teens turned away from substance abuse and reduced their drinking, cigarette smoking, and marijuana use to 5% or less by 2016.  

The reason is that the President of Iceland launched Prevention Day with 3 goals: 

        1.    Increase time spent together by adolescents and their families
        2.    Postpone the onset of alcohol use until 18 years of age and over
        3.    Increase adolescent participation in structured and organized youth activities supervised by adults (such as after-school programs)

    Iceland’s teens now get a healthy, “natural high” by spending more time with their parents - quantity time - and engaging in a greater selection of activities in sports, music, dance and the arts.  Helping a youth find a passion is a way to battle the growing plague of opioid abuse and addiction.  Unfortunately, not all youths can afford to pay for those would-be passions.  

    Iceland’s analysis of annual surveys among their teens age 10-16 years, shows that affiliations with family, peer group effects, and types of recreational activities available are the strongest predictors of the paths taken by adolescents. - Inga Dóra Sigfúsdóttir

    The essence of the Icelandic model is explained by Inga Dóra Sigfússon (ICSRA Director of Youth in Iceland and Youth in Europe):  “Well it’s not magic. It’s simply organized, structured work. We collect the data…(and people are gathered)…teachers, politicians, people from the health care center, the church, the sports club. They gather parents of course. We go through the situation and just talk about how the situation is. This is how your children are feeling, this is what they want and here there is a rise, here is a decline. We follow this up so that the information gets into action as soon as possible.”

    Where do we go from here?  In her closing remarks at the UN Special Session, Professor Sigfúsdóttir presented her view on how to move forward:  

    “In a world where there are practically no cultural or national boundaries anymore - AND cyberspace is without limits - teenagers are mobile in more than one sense of the word.

    “In this kind of world, we know that it is only through joining forces, by learning from each other and basing our work on trustworthy research, by which we will succeed in fighting substance use. It is not an easy task. But - based on research - we know it can be done - with guardianship, community attachment and informal social control. We will not change anything by single project solutions. Prevention needs to be consistent and comprehensive - not one campaign, but a quiet revolution!

    “If you want to replicate what happened in Iceland, here is what I recommend you to do:

        1.    Minimize unsupervised adolescent time periods
        2.    Create more activity, frequently and in structured ways
        3.    Delay ‘first drink’ onset
        4.    Base your efforts at a community level - where things can get done, practically and quickly
        5.    Get your Presidents and elected leadership to campaign for this venture

    (Source:  * On April 19, 2016 The Icelandic Model: Evidence Based Primary Prevention - 20 Years of Successful Primary Prevention Work was featured at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem.; Youth in Iceland and Youth in Europe; Iceland Succeeds at Reversing Teenage Substance Abuse The U.S. Should Follow Suit, by Harvey B. Milkman, Ph.D., Huffington Post, 2016; and Study Shows quantity time beats quality time with teens, by Doug Wilks, Deseret News, July 30, 2017) 
Local Organizations
Additional Resources

Abstemious Outpatient Clinic Inc.  


Alcoholics Anonymous
AA Meetings
(509) 624-1442

American Behavioral Health Systems Drug Addiction Treatment  

Breakthrough Recovery Group
Valley Redwood Plaza
11711 E. Sprague, Ste D4
Spokane Valley, WA   99206
(509) 927-6838
Outpatient drug and alcohol treatment services and programs.  We incorporate the latest research in neurology and pharmacology, offering an innovative, evidence-based, patient centered substance and mental health treatment experience.

Colonial Clinic Drug Addiction Treatment  

Community Detox Services of Spokane
312 W. 8th Ave.
(509) 477-4650

Crisis Residential Center (CRC)
201 W 6th Spokane
Daybreak of Spokane Alcohol Rehab Center

Drug Rehab
Addiction to drugs, alcohol and prescription drugs.  Their mission is to equip patients and families with the best information, resources and tools to overcome addition and lead a lifelong recovery. 

First Call for Help

Excelsior Youth Centers Inc.
328-7041 ext.101 

Gateway Counseling Services Alcohol Treatment Center

Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council

Healing Lodge of The Seven Nations Alcohol Rehab Center

Isabella House Drug Abuse Treatment
624-1244 ext. 23

Lakeside Recovery Centers Drug Rehab Center  
(a for-profit business)
(509) 328-5234

Native Project

New Directions Outpatient Clinic Drug Abuse Treatment

New Horizon Counseling Services Drug Treatment Program
838-6092 ext. 32

New Vision @ Holy Family Hospital
(509) 252-6488

Spokane Addiction Recovery Centers Alcohol Treatment Center

Spokane Heights Detox
(for-profit business)
524 E. Francis
(509) 919-4150
Spokane Heights Detox seeks to bridge the gap between the need for physiological and psychological aspects of detoxification from addictive substances and alcohol. Their method encompasses an individualized approach to the beginning stages of the recovery process. Medical and therapeutic professionals work together with each individual in order to motivate lasting recovery opportunities and maximize treatment effectiveness.

Spokane Regional Health District Drug Treatment Program

Stepps YFA Connections Drug Addiction Treatment

Sun Ray Court Drug Addiction Treatment, Adult Male Branch

Veterans Affairs Medical Center Substance Abuse Treatment Program
(509) 434-7000

Spokane Drug Rehab Treatment Centers 

National Resources: 

Alcoholism Answers
An informative guide containing a variety articles related to alcohol abuse and alcoholism (from causes to intervention to risk factors and more)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  
A national clearing house for alcohol and drug information.  The world’s largest source for free information, programs, and projects on substance abuse and addiction treatments. 

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides help to stop drinking.