Prevention of Underage Alcohol Use



Underage drinking is dangerous!  And, it's against the law!
Today, drinking by anyone under age 21 is against the law in every State and in the District of Columbia.


Underage drinking is a major cause of death from injuries among young people. Each year, approximately 5,000 people under age 21 die as a result of underage drinking. This includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes; 1,600 as a result of homicides; 300 from suicide; and hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning. How can you Be the Influence?  Model good decisions concerning drinking alcohol!

Alcohol can harm the growing brain. Today we know that the brain continues to develop from birth through the adolescent years and into the mid-20s. Alcohol affects the brain. Some of these impairments are detectable after only one or two drinks and quickly resolve when drinking stops. On the other hand, a person who drinks heavily over a long period of time may have brain deficits that persist well after he or she achieves sobriety. Alcohol effects on the brain:


Difficulty walking / Blurred vision / Slurred speech / Slowed reaction times / Impaired memory and blackouts / Mental confusion / Paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes / Difficulty with muscle coordination / Persistent learning and memory problems


We know heavy drinking may have extensive and far–reaching effects on the brain, ranging from simple “slips” in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care.


Moderate drinking leads to short–term impairment, as shown by extensive research on the impact of drinking on driving.


Early drinking affects the ability for the brain to make decisions through analytical thinking, and, may deter development into adulthood.


Alcohol can affect the body in many ways. The effects of alcohol range from hangovers to death from alcohol poisoning. / Liver disease / Unintentional injuries / HIV risk due to impaired judgment


Alcohol can lead to other problems. These may include bad grades in school, run-ins with the law, and drug use. 

Alcohol affects how well a young person judges risks and makes sound decisions. For example, after drinking, a teen may see nothing wrong with driving a car or riding with a driver who has been drinking. But, before drinking, the teen might realize the riskiness involved.  How can you Be the Influence?  Teach youth how to say “no” to alcohol!


Alcohol plays a role in risky sexual activity. People do things when they are under the influence of alcohol—even a small amount—that they would not do when they are sober, including having sex even when they didn't want to and had not planned to do so. This behavior can increase the chance of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.  How can you Be the Influence?  Model non-sexual behaviors and educate youth on the issue.



Some more Facts:


Today, nearly 10.8 million youth aged 12 to 20 are underage drinkers.


In any month, more youth are drinking than are smoking cigarettes or using marijuana.


Approximately 10 percent of 9-to 10-year-olds have started drinking.


Nearly one-third of youth begin drinking before age 13.



Additional Resources:

Too Smart to Start

Rethinking Drinking

Above the Influence

Office of the Surgeon General. (2007). The Surgeon General's Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking: A Guide to Action for Families (PDF 900KB) p. 10. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Office of Applied Studies (2008). Results from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings (NSDUH Series H-34, DHHS Publication No. SMA 08-4343). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Office of the Surgeon General. (2007). The Surgeon General's Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking (PDF 1.41MB), p. 6. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.