Adolescents’ Spirituality and Alcohol Use

Authors: Robert H. DuRant, PhD


Alcohol abuse is a significant public health problem in this country. Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of death in the US; more than 75,000 deaths annually are attributed to alcohol consumption. Unhealthy alcohol use has been found in 7 to 20% of adult outpatients, 30 to 40% of emergency room patients and 50% of trauma patients.1 Data from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey indicate that 12.5% of adults met DSM-IV alcohol dependence criteria, 19.9% of people who had ever drank met dependence criteria and 8% of adults met dependence criteria before age 25 years.2 Adults who began drinking before 14 years of age were more likely to experience alcohol dependence at some point in their lives (in most cases within 10 year of the onset of their drinking) than adults who began drinking at age 21 years or older.3 Not only is adolescent onset of alcohol consumption associated with adult alcohol abuse, but early age of onset of alcohol use is associated with increased alcohol use and other health risk behaviors as adolescents move from early adolescence to middle adolescence.4

This content is limited to qualifying members.

Existing members, please login first.

If you have an existing account please login now to access this article or view your purchase options.

Purchase only this article ($15)

Create a free account, then purchase this article to download or access it online for 24 hours.

Purchase an SMJ online subscription ($75)

Create a free account, then purchase a subscription to get complete access to all articles for a full year.

Purchase a membership plan (fees vary)

Premium members can access all articles plus recieve many more benefits. View all membership plans and benefit packages.


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alcohol-attributable deaths and years of potential life lost–United States, 2001. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2004;53:866–870.
2. Grant BF, Dawson DA. Age at onset of alcohol use and its association with DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence: results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. J Subst Abuse 1997;9:103–110.
3. Hingson RW, Heeren T, Winter MR. Age at drinking onset and alcohol dependence: age at onset, duration, and severity. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2006;160:739–746.
4. DuRant RH, Smith JA, Kreiter SR, et al. The relationship between early age of onset of initial substance use and engaging in multiple health risk behaviors among young adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 1999;153:286–291.
5. Knight JR, Sherritt L, Harris SM, et al. Alcohol use and religiousness/spirituality among adolescent. South Med J 2007;100:349–355.
6. Peteet JR. Should clinicians prescribe forgiveness? South Med J 2007;100:339–340.
7. Koenig HG, McCullough ME, Larson DB. Handbook of Religion and Health. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001.
8. Cotton S, Zebracki K, Rosenthal SL, et al. Religion/spirituality and adolescent health outcomes: a review. J Adolesc Health 2006;38:472–480.
9. Eaton DK, Kann L, Kinchen S, et al. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2005. MMWR Surveill Summ 2006;55:1–108.
10. DuRant RH. Religiosity and spirituality and substance use and abuse: epidemiology, identification, and treatment. Paper presented to the Spirituality/Medicine Interface Conference. Southern Medical Association. Atlanta, GA, September 16, 2006.