Risks from Underage Alcohol Use
Dangers of Underage Alcohol Use
The legal drinking age is 21. However, most adults (95 percent) who become dependent on or abuse alcohol begin drinking before age 21.1 Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience the following risks:
Brain and other neurological impairment
Missed school and lower grades
Hangovers and other problems, including death from alcohol poisoning
Sexual intercourse, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, or being involved in sexual assault
Greater suicide and homicide risk
Injuries or death from car crashes (driving drunk or riding with someone who is under the influence), burns, falls, and drowning
Abuse of tobacco or other drugs2
Many of these risks are more likely for youth who binge drink. Binge drinking is having five or more drinks in a row.
- Take the quiz to examine the ways you address alcohol and tobacco use in your family.
- Learn about the risks associated with underage tobacco use.
1. Office of Applied Studies (2004, updated 2008). The NSDUH Report: Alcohol dependence or abuse and age of first use. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2012).
2. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (2012, September). Effects and consequences of underage drinking. Juvenile Justice Bulletin (NCJ 237145), 1-11. Also see: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014). Report to Congress on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking 2013. Washington, DC: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.