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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. 

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. 

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 

The Role Parents Play

Parents and teachers can play a big role in shaping young people's attitudes toward drinking.  Parents in particular can have either a positive or negative influence.


Parents can help their children avoid alcohol problems by: [3]

  • Talking about the dangers of drinking

  • Drinking responsibly, if they choose to drink

  • Serving as positive role models in general

  • Not making alcohol available

  • Getting to know their children's friends

  • Having regular conversations about life in general

  • Connecting with other parents about sending clear messages about the importance of not drinking alcohol

  • Supervising all parties to make sure there is no alcohol

  • Encouraging kids to participate in healthy and fun activities that do not involve alcohol


Research shows that children whose parents are actively involved in their lives are less likely to drink alcohol. ​

Also, all cities in Sherburne County have a Social Host Ordinance, in addition to a county-wide ordinance.  


A Social Host Ordinance (SHO) aims to deter underage drinking parties and decrease social access to alcohol by underage youth.  Sherburne County students who report drinking commonly access alcohol from social sources, such as relatives, older friends, or at parties.  This type of ordinance helps keep our young people safe by reducing the occurrences of large drinking parties that can result in excessive drinking, impaired driving, and other negative outcomes.

Visit our Social Host Ordinance page to learn more.  

Alcohol and Minnesota

2019 Minnesota Student Survey results demonstrated that:

  • In addition to e-cigarettes, alcohol is the drug of choice for youth.  More of the Sherburne County students surveyed said they had used alcohol or e-cigarettes in the past 30 days than any other drug.

  • Students who report drinking alcohol say the most common way they access alcohol is from social sources, such as relatives, older friends, or at parties.

  • When students feel that adults in their community care about them, they are 1.9 times less likely to report past month alcohol use.   


Sherburne County Past 30-Day Substance Use

In 2017-2018: [4]

  • Of the 381 people who died in traffic crashes, 123 were alcohol-related

  • 2,156 people suffered injuries in alcohol-related crashes

  • 26,414 were arrested for DWIs (average of 72 DWI incidents per day)

  • 1,321 (5%) of the DWIs were issued to underage drivers

  • 1/7 licensed Minnesota drivers has at least one DWI


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

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