Underage Drinking Can Be More Harmful
Than You Think!

A recent survey1 completed by 478 local students from Essex County highlighted:

“A person who starts drinking as a young teen is 5 times more likely to become an alcoholic than someone who doesn’t’ drink until age 21.”
  • Most respondents felt their parents would disapprove of their use of substances, with alcohol showing the lowest level of disapproval. 
  • Of those respondents who drink, the primary source is either from the individual’s home or a friend’s home without permission.
  • 32% of survey respondents drank alcohol at least once in the past year.
  • 50% of 12th grade students surveyed drank alcohol at least once in the past year.

Consequences of Underage Drinking2

Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience:

  • School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
    • Teens who drink alcohol regularly can have memory lapses and trouble focusing.
  • Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
    • Drinking may cause teens to pull away from good friends and healthy activities.
    • Higher risk of getting kicked off of sports teams and other activities.
  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
    • Underage drinking is illegal. Trouble with the law may affect college and job prospects.
    • ADULTS who supply alcohol to teens (knowingly and unknowingly) can face legal consequences if someone they provided alcohol to is hurt or killed.
  • Increased risk for unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
  • Increased risk for physical and sexual assault.
  • Increased risk for suicide and homicide.
  • Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
    • More than 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth
  • Abuse of other drugs.
  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
    • The brain is still forming in teenagers. Teen drinking can cause permanent brain damage and changes in thinking.
    • Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
    • Memory problems.
  • Death from alcohol poisoning.

Preventing Teens from Drinking3:

SOURCE: Johnston, L.D.; Miech, R.A.; O’Malley, P.M.; et al. Monitoring the Future National Survey: Trends in 30-Day Prevalence of Use of Various Drugs in Grades 8, 10, and 12, 2015. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 2016. Available at: http://monitoringthefuture.org/data/16data/16drtbl3.pdf. Accessed 8/7/17.

At home:

  • Make sure teens can’t access alcohol without your knowledge. Unmonitored alcohol, including alcohol stored in a cabinet, basement or garage, can be a temptation. When in doubt, lock it up.
  • Exercise your influence. Data shows that teens continue to care what their parents think, even while they are in high school and college. Let your teen know that you don’t want them to drink and that most teens in fact don’t drink.
  • Talk to your kids about how to say no to a drink.
  • Be involved in your child’s life
    • Research by Ashley, et. al. (2005) shows that positive parental involvement decreases adolescent substance abuse.
    • When parents are positive role models, children do not search for other role models who may introduce negative activities (i.e., drug use).
  • How can you be involved?
    • Share an interest with your child (i.e., painting, swimming, writing)
    • Show interest in your child’s activities, hobbies, school work, etc. & compliment them.
    • Teach your child how to respectfully voice their opinion & let them do so.
    • Share personal experience (i.e., “Don’t make the same mistakes I did.”)

In your community:

  • Speak out, because silence can be misinterpreted. If you hear about a situation, say that you don’t want other people serving alcohol to your teen or condoning teen drinking. Let your friends, neighbors, and family members know that the minimum drinking age is a policy that protects teens, and that you don’t want your teen to drink.
  • Take action before a situation arises. Start talking to the parents of your teen’s friends early — for example, when your kid is in 6th grade. Tell them about the risks of teen drinking and let them know that you don’t want anyone to allow your teen to drink alcohol.
  • Talk to adults who host teen parties. Let them know that the overwhelming majority of parents support the legal drinking age and agree that it is not okay to serve alcohol to someone else’s teen — and not okay to turn a blind eye to teens’ alcohol consumption.
  • Talk to your school board, school principals, teachers, and coaches. Let them know that it is unsafe, illegal, and irresponsible to condone teen drinking. Ask them to discourage this activity.
  • Talk to management at restaurants, town halls, and other venues where teen parties are held. Let them know that parents in your community do not want teens to have access to alcohol.
  • Let local law enforcement know that you encourage active policing of noisy teen parties that may signal alcohol use.
  • Tell local alcohol retailers that you want them to check ID before selling alcohol. Limiting alcohol sales to legal purchasers is an important goal and worth the time it takes.


ADAPT Survey
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fact Sheets: Underage Drinking. Atlanta, GA: CDC, 2016. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm. Accessed 8/7/17.
3 https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0389-stopping-teens-easy-access-alcohol