Facts About Underage Drinking from NIAAA

Photo from NIAAA’s Website! Click to visit them for more information about Alcohol Abuse Prevention!!

NIAAA, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has the following facts to share about underage drinking. Take them to heart and share them with your friends!


Underage drinking is a risk that attracts many developing adolescents and teens. Many want to try alcohol, but often do not fully recognize its effects on their health and behavior. Adolescents are “built” to take risks, seek novelty, socialize with peers, explore, and learn. Youth who have an unusually strong desire for new experiences and sensations are more likely to use alcohol. Immature circuits related to decision-making and impulse control, combined with strong reinforcement provided by alcohol and drinking with friends, contribute to underage drinking. Transitions may present increased risk for alcohol use and/or an opportunity for intervention (i.e. school changes).

Increased stress, responsibility, and free time all may contribute to alcohol use. Youth with histories of behavior problems, family conflict, and/or alcohol problems are more likely to use alcohol than are other young people. More young people use alcohol than use tobacco, marijuana, or any other illicit drug. Binge drinking accounts for more than 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth. Youth ages 12-20 drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States.

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. Underage drinkers are more likely to carry out or be the victim of physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink. .Underage drinkers may have trouble in school or with the law. Drinking alcohol is associated with the use of other drugs.

Young people’s brains develop well into their 20’s–usually before age 25 for females and males. During adolescence, the brain undergoes significant growth and remodeling. Alcohol can alter this development, potentially causing cognitive or learning problems. People who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.

Predictors of Youth Problem Drinking

a. Friends’ drinking

b. Temperament (i.e. impulsivity, sensation seeking)

c. Risk cognition (i.e. positive beliefs about alcohol’s effects)

d. Alcohol-related problems

e. Delinquency

f. Parental alcohol use

g. Family history of alcohol problems

h. Poor neighborhood environment

i. Low level of response to alcohol

j. Unusual high level of response to alcohol

Share these facts with your friends! For more information, visit NIAAA’s website.

Keep Your Teens Active After School

One of the best prevention strategies for alcohol abuse in minors is to make sure that teens and other underage individuals are occupied with adult supervision during hours they might otherwise spend alone. After school and on the weekends are times when teens might go with discretionary time on their hands. A great way to make sure that your teen has something to do (with accountability to responsible adults) after school and on weekends is to encourage them to spend their time in extracurricular activities that they enjoy.

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism had this to say about extracurricular activities:

About 40 percent of adolescents’ waking hours are discretionary-not committed to such activities as eating, school, homework, chores, or working for pay-and many young adolescents spend virtually all of this time without companionship or supervision by responsible adults (Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development 1992). Discretionary time outside of school represents an enormous potential for either desirable or undesirable behaviors, such as alcohol and other drug use. Several studies have found that young adolescents who are more likely to be without adult supervision after school have significantly higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use than do adolescents receiving more adult supervision (Mulhall et al. 1996; Richardson et al. 1993).

Help your teens and other children find activities that are fun, social, and presided over by responsible adults that you trust. Great ideas are martial arts, youth leadership programs, volunteer opportunities, sports, and tutoring opportunities. Don’t leave your child alone when they could be spending their valuable after-school and weekend hours growing their minds, relationships with friends, and building up their confidence in meaningful activity!