- By age 15, about 33 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
- By age 18, about 60 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
- In 2015, 7.7 million young people ages 12–20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month.
Underage Drinking Is Dangerous
Underage drinking poses a range of risks and negative consequences. It is dangerous because it:
Causes many deaths
Based on data from 2006–2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, on average, alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 4,358 young people under age 21 each year.4 This includes:
1,580 deaths from motor vehicle crashes
1,269 from homicides
245 from alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, and drowning
492 from suicides
Causes many injuries
Drinking alcohol can cause kids to have accidents and get hurt. In 2011 alone, about 188,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries.5
Drinking can lead to poor decisions about engaging in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, sexual activity (such as unprotected sex), and aggressive or violent behavior.
Increases the risk of physical and sexual assault
Underage youth who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.
Can lead to other problems
Drinking may cause youth to have trouble in school or with the law. Drinking alcohol also is associated with the use of other drugs.
Increases the risk of alcohol problems later in life
Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are 4 times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.
Interferes with brain development
Research shows that young people’s brains keep developing well into their 20s. Alcohol can alter this development, potentially affecting both brain structure and function. This may cause cognitive or learning problems and/or make the brain more prone to alcohol dependence. This is especially a risk when people start drinking young and drink heavily.
Myth Vs Fact
Click on each myth below to discover the facts about underage drinking
Fact: Alcohol increases your risk for many deadly diseases, such as cancer. Drinking too much too quickly and lead to alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.
Fact: Drinking is a dumb way to loosen up. It can cause you to say things you shouldn’t say and do things you wouldn’t normally do.
Fact: There’s nothing cool about stumbling around, passing out, or throwing up all over the place. Drinking alcohol can also cause bad breath and weight gain.
Fact: If you really want to fit in, stay sober. 2016 KIP Survey data shows that 89.8% of Shelby County middle and high school students have not used alcohol in the past 30 days.
Fact: On average, it takes 2 – 3 hours for a single drink to leave the body. Nothing can speed up the process, including drinking coffee, taking a shower or “walking it off.”
Fact: A young person’s brain and body are still growing. Drinking alcohol can cause learning problems or lead to adult alcoholism. People who begin drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to abuse or become dependent on alcohol than those who begin drinking after age 21.
Fact: Alcohol is alcohol. One 12-ounce bottle of beer or a 5-ounce glass of wine has as much alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. Alcopops (sweet drinks laced with malt liquor) often contain more alcohol than beer.
Fact: If you are under 21, drinking alcohol is illegal. Kids who drink are also more likely to get poor grades in school and are at a higher risk for being a crime victim.