Alcohol among young people: striking developments

More and more young people are using alcohol, more alcohol is being consumed and younger young people are drinking alcohol. In Western countries, drinking is particularly common in the social context. What developments are taking place around drinking alcohol among young people?

Drinking alcohol: younger and younger

The age at which alcohol is consumed is getting lower. In 2005, according to the Trimbos Institute, 19% of thirteen-year-old young people were already drinking and this only increases with age. For example, 62% of fourteen and fifteen year olds drink and almost 87% of seventeen year olds. The average age is 14.6 years, but 15% of students report that they have had their first alcoholic drink before the age of ten. Compared to other European countries, Dutch young people drink early: 62% of 15-year-olds had already had their first drink when they were 13 years old or younger. Only the Czech Republic was above (CBS, 2009).

Drink in

To save costs, it is often imbibed. This often happens at home or with friends, sometimes involving several bottles of alcohol. In 2005, half of thirteen to seventeen year olds were found to be imbibing.

Drinking heavily

Heavy drinking is defined as drinking at least six glasses of alcohol more than once a week. In 2008 this was 4% of students. Yet this is a decrease compared to 2001: at that time 7.1% of students were heavy drinkers (CBS). Nevertheless, 4% of students (thirteen to seventeen years old) is a large percentage of students who drink more than six glasses of alcohol more than once per week. Since 1 to 2 glasses per occasion per week is considered ‘not too much’ for a 16 year old, six glasses is still a huge burden on the young person’s body.

Binge drinking

Binge drinking is drinking six or more drinks in one day, but not more than once a week. The percentage is somewhere between 35% and 64% among thirteen to 24 year olds between 2001 and 2005, depending on the study. Although the general picture remains fairly stable, 75% of students say they have drunk five or more glasses of alcohol on one occasion (Trimbos Institute). Since one or two drinks are considered not too much and anything above that is considered too much, binge drinking can be seen as a dangerous development.

binge drinking

A very dangerous development is binge drinking. This involves drinking so much alcohol that the person suffers alcohol poisoning, becomes unconscious and has to be admitted to hospital. In addition to these short-term consequences, this can also have long-term consequences for the development of the young person on a social, cognitive and physical level (see: The consequences of alcohol use for young people). There are no regional differences in this and it occurs in all levels of the population (Zembla, 2007).


Slimming is also a new but dangerous development. This involves inserting a tampon impregnated with vodka vaginally or anally. This means that the alcohol is immediately absorbed into the bloodstream and you get drunk very quickly. This makes it much more difficult to keep track of how much alcohol is in the bloodstream (drinks can still be counted) and therefore alcohol poisoning is always a very real possibility.

read more

  • The consequences of alcohol for young people
  • Alcohol as a depressant