Negative Consequences of Underage Drinking
Adolescence can be a wonderful time filled with physical and emotional growth. For
some youth, however, adolescence takes a dark turn, especially when underage alcohol
use is involved.
Underage alcohol use increases the risk of academic failure, illicit drug use, and
tobacco use. It can cause a range of physical consequences, from hangovers to death
from alcohol poisoning, suicide, homicide, and traffic crashes. Annually, about
4,700 people under age 21 die from injuries involving underage drinking.1
Underage alcohol use also can alter the structure and function of the developing
brain, which continues to mature into the mid- to late twenties, and may have consequences
reaching far beyond adolescence.2 For example, those who start using
alcohol while young are at greater risk of developing alcohol problems as adults.
In 2012, adults who had first used alcohol before age 15 were more than seven times
as likely to experience alcohol dependence or abuse as those who waited until age
21 for their first drink (15.2 vs. 2.1 percent).3
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI). Atlanta, GA: Author.
2 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.).
Underage drinking: A growing health care concern.
3 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013).
Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of national
findings, NSDUH Series H-46, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4795.
Rockville, MD: Author.