Underaged Drinking, Young Drinkers

CDC Fact Sheet Update – Underage Drinking

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The CDC recently released its Fact Sheet on Under-aged Drinking – and the statistics are quite scary.  It is well known that alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, but few people know the specifics of under-aged drinking in terms of fatalities and economic costs – excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year, and cost the U.S. billions in economic costs.

Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience school problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades, social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities. Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.  Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk, are not only theirs but fall on the shoulders of parents and guardians.

Under-aged drinking has little-known consequences that should be brought to light. Youth who drink alcohol engage in more unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity than youth who don’t, and they experience a disruption of normal growth and sexual development. They have a higher risk of physical and sexual assault, as well as for suicide and homicide.

Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning join memory problems and changes in brain development are life-life-long effects. Death from alcohol poisoning is common among under-aged drinkers. In general, the risk of youth experiencing these problems is greater for those who binge drink than for those who do not binge drink.

Youth who start drinking before age 15 years are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years.

Prevention of Underage Drinking
Reducing underage drinking will require community-based efforts to monitor the activities of youth and decrease youth access to alcohol. Recent publications by the Surgeon General and the Institute of Medicine outlined many prevention strategies for the prevention of underage drinking, such as enforcement of minimum legal drinking age laws, national media campaigns targeting youth and adults, increasing alcohol excise taxes, reducing youth exposure to alcohol advertising, and development of comprehensive community-based programs.

Other findings from the CDC:

  • Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.
  • On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.



Reprinted from the CDC’s Fact Sheet on Under-Aged Drinking
Updated May, 2018