Underage Drinking: Consequences and Risks

Despite the fact that underage drinking can have serious short and long term consequences, alcohol remains the drug of choice among American teens. Even though it is illegal, 11% of all the alcohol consumed in the United States is consumed by people aged 12 to 20 years old. Even more alarming is the fact that 90% of this alcohol is consumed in high-risk binge drinks.

By the Numbers

Kids who start drinking before they are 15 years old are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years.
According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, during the past 30 days
  • 39% of high schoolers drank some amount of alcohol.
  • 22% of high schoolers binge drank.
  • 8% of high schoolers drove after drinking alcohol.
  • 24% of high schoolers rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 ER visits linked to underage drinking.
Underage drinking is responsible for more than 4,700 deaths annually.

Consequences of Underage Drinking

Minors 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.
  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
  • 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.
  • Abuse of other drugs.
  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
  • Death from alcohol poisoning.

  • http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm
  • http://www.centurycouncil.org/underage-drinking/underage-drinking-research
  • https://www.ncdps.gov/index2.cfm?a=000003,000005,000272,000273

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DrinkingwithDiabetes.com is a resource for young adult Type 1 diabetics and their support networks to help navigate interactions around alcohol. Alcohol is often an integral part of social life on college campuses and while all students face risks, there are a number of unique and serious ones specific to insulin-using diabetics. Learning how to navigate those risks and make informed decisions for themselves about the role alcohol plays in their lives.

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