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Opening Beer Bottle

Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States.  Over 4,300 underage youth die each year in the U.S. due to alcohol use. [1]

Did you know?

Youth who start consuming alcohol before the age of 15 are more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life compared to those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years. [2]


Why do young people drink?

As children mature, it is natural for them to assert their independence, seek new challenges, and try taking risks.  Underage drinking is a risk that attracts many developing adolescents and teens.  Many want to try alcohol, but often do not fully recognize its effects on their health and behavior.  Other reasons young people drink alcohol include: [3]

  • Peer pressure

  • Increased independence, or desire for it

  • Stress

In addition, many youth may have easy access to alcohol.  Students who report drinking alcohol say the most common way they access alcohol is from social sources, such as family members, older friends, or find it at home. 

Binge Drinking Among Youth

Research estimates that youth consume 90% of their alcohol through binge drinking.  Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks during one occasion for males, and four or more drinks for females. [2]

Warning Signs of Underage Drinking

Adolescence is a time of change and growth, including behavior changes.  These changes usually are a normal part of growing up but sometimes can point to an alcohol problem.  Parents and teachers should pay close attention to the following warning signs that may indicate underage drinking: [3]

  • Changes in mood, including anger and irritability 

  • Academic and/or behavioral problems in school

  • Rebelliousness

  • Changing groups of friends

  • Low energy level

  • Less interest in activities and/or care in appearance 

  • Finding alcohol among a young person's things

  • Smelling alcohol on a young person's breath

  • Problems concentrating and/or remembering 

  • Slurred speech

  • Coordination problems 

Consequences of Underage Drinking

Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience: [1]

  • School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades

  • Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities

  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk

  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity

  • Disruption of normal growth and sexual development

  • Physical and sexual assault

  • Higher risk for suicide and homicide

  • Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning

  • Memory problems

  • Misuse of other drugs

  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects

  • Death from alcohol poisoning

In general, the risk of youth experiencing these problems is greater for those who binge drink than for those who do not binge drink. 

(Source: Minnesota Student Survey– Grades 8, 9, & 11)

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