Closeup of two teen girls kissing their mom, who is in the middle.

Addiction to opioids makes the news on a regular basis, but the number one misused substance in the U.S. is still alcohol. Around 10% of adults develop and alcohol use disorder, and many of those started drinking before they reached the legal age. It’s important to delay the age when young people first use alcohol—if they use it at all—as research shows this lowers the risk for addiction disorders and other harms.

Talking to Youth

Adults may feel that kids and teens don’t listen to what they have to say–especially about a topic like underage drinking. Despite adult misgivings, there is solid evidence that they have significant influence on the decisions of the kids in their life around alcohol use. Drinking changes how the adolescent brain develops and makes the individual more susceptible to developing an addiction disorder. Heavy drinking during the teen years can produce a smaller brain and can limit cognitive functioning or the ability to make good decisions. Parents, caregivers, and other loved ones and relatives can find the basics about alcohol’s impact on teens, as well as simple ways to start conversations through the campaign Talk. They Hear You®. Conversation topics include the following, and tips for each interaction are included on the website.

In Pennsylvania in 2021, 65% of teens had never tried alcohol and 86% had not had a drink in the past 30 days. Kids who don’t drink are NOT a small group, and hearing from caregivers that they are expected not to use alcohol while underage is a powerful experience for them.

About the Expert


As Director of Program for Compass Mark, Teri Miller-Landon is responsible for the strategic leadership and direction of addiction prevention programs in Lancaster, Lebanon, and Chester Counties. She was previously the Deputy Director of Administration with Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole Services; as well as the Division Director overseeing probation/parole units that supervise special populations.

She coordinated the Lancaster County’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training for Law Enforcement from 2013 to 2019 and was employed for 6 years with Lancaster County Behavioral Health/Developmental Services. Teri works part-time as an adjunct professor at Elizabethtown College, and is certified to teach suicide prevention, trauma-informed care, and de-escalation skills.

Teri received her bachelor’s in psychology from Millersville University and her MSW from Temple University. She has two teenage children and lives in Manheim Township, Lancaster County. Compass Mark benefits greatly from Teri’s extensive education and experience, as well as her passion for structuring systems to support marginalized individuals.

This post was originally published by WGAL TV 8 on and sponsored by Donegal Insurance Group as part of the Mental Health Moment campaign. We thank WGAL TV 8 and Donegal Insurance Group for their support of prevention and mental wellbeing in our region.