Teenage Binge-Drinking and Long-Term Anxiety

Boy struggling with alcohol addiction

Every “coming of age” movie ever has sent the clear message that adolescence is a challenging time. Unfortunately, these movies also often send the message that it is acceptable for teens to binge-drink to socialize and cope in these times but does binge-drinking and long-term anxiety feed on each other?

While this is posed as “harmless” or a “right of passage,” the truth is that this can result in behaviors or mental health issues that last throughout the lifetime.

The Connection Between Binge-Drinking and Long-Term Anxiety

Let’s not sugar-coat it: exposure to alcohol early in life increases an individual’s risk for numerous mental and physical health issues such as drug and alcohol addiction, organ functioning, anxiety, depression, etc. [Science Daily].

As one study hot-off-the presses noted, “binge drinking early in life modifies the brain and changes connectivity in the brain, especially in the amygdala, which is involved in emotional regulation and anxiety, in ways we don’t totally understand yet [1].”

Our society poses alcohol use as harmless and as a quintessential part of our culture.

Celebrating something? Have a drink. Lamenting something? Have a drink. Feeling awful? You need a drink. Feeling great? You deserve a drink.

This mentality is damaging to young minds, not only for the messages it sends about using substances to alter mood states, but, also, because they participate in these behaviors without knowing they are altering their brains forever.

As one researcher emphasized, “what we do know is that epigenetic changes are lasting, and increase susceptibility to psychological issues later in life, even if drinking that took place early in life is stopped [1]].”

This bears repeating – “even if drinking that took place early in life is stopped [1].” What happens in the past does not stay there, especially when it impacts your body and brain chemistry.


It seems obvious, but one of the keys to reducing the number of teens experiencing binge-drinking and long-term anxiety is to inform them of the true consequences.

We are all well aware of the possible negative behaviors of drinking heavily such as saying things we don’t mean, putting ourselves in dangerous circumstances, reducing our physical functioning, or getting behind the wheel and endangering our lives as well as others.

Man Praying Over Teenager about Binge-Drinking and Long-Term AnxietyIn addition to those consequences, teach your children about what drugs and alcohol do to your brain, how it alters their thinking and brain chemistry, and how this can be irreversible and last their entire lives.

It is a frightening conversation. However, it is also a terrifying reality.

Additionally, model healthy behaviors for your children.

All of those societal messages mentioned above? Let them go, they have no place in your life or your teen’s.

Teach them that they can celebrate without needing substances, that they can mourn or have emotions without having to numb them, and that they are valuable and loved just as they are, whether they do “what everyone else is doing” or not.


[1] University of Illinois Chicago (2019). Binge drinking in adolescence may increase anxiety later in life. Science Daily.

About the Author:

Margot Rittenhouse photoMargot Rittenhouse, MS, NCC, PLPC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 16, 2019
Reviewed & Approved by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 16, 2019
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

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