Underage drinking can lead to harmful behavior

Your kids are still learning how to make good decisions. Alcohol can have a long-lasting impact on their behavior and lead to other problems down the road. Preventing underage drinking can help provide your child their brightest possible future.

Underage drinking can result in death

Alcohol poisoning is a serious risk with underage drinking. Kids can easily consume dangerous amounts of alcohol before their bodies realize it. The resulting alcohol poisoning can cause difficulty breathing, unconsciousness and death.

The danger is real

Not only do kids who use alcohol often progress to other addictive behaviors later in life, they’re also at a much higher risk for developing mental illnesses such as depression and psychoticism as adults. These behaviors and illnesses also greatly increase the risk of suicide.1,2

Psychological distress

Among 12- to 17-year-olds who were current drinkers, 31 percent exhibited extreme levels of psychological distress, and 39 percent exhibited serious behavioral problems.3

Suicide (Girls)

Among eighth-grade girls who drank heavily, 37 percent reported attempting suicide, whereas 11 percent of girls who do not drink reported attempting suicide.4


12- to 16-year-old girls who were current drinkers were four times more likely than their nondrinking peers to suffer depression.5

Suicide (Heavy Drinkers)

Suicide attempts among heavy-drinking adolescents were three to four times greater than among nondrinkers.5

Age 21 is key

Studies show that addiction often begins, and can best be prevented, in adolescence.6 Your involvement as a parent now can make a lifetime of difference.

“A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs is virtually certain never to do so.”

—Joseph Califano, National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 2006

Underage drinking: the first of many bad decisions

Underage drinking isn’t harmless, and the list of negative consequences is extensive, with immediate and long-term effects.

Other risks increase

Alcohol use among adolescents can be a predictor of teen injury, fighting, academic problems, truancy, unprotected sexual activity, unwanted sexual advances, illegal activity and the use of other illicit drugs. 7,8,9

Car crashes and drunk driving

In addition to alcohol poisoning, car crashes are the number one killer of teens; and more than one-third of teen traffic deaths are alcohol related.10

Set a family rule. Never get into a car with a driver who has been drinking.

See the research

A doctor from the Amen Clinics explains the long-term effects of underage drinking on a child’s later adult life.

A haunting decision

One potentially lasting effect of a youthful DUI is that your child may be required to disclose his or her conviction on college applications, job applications or for requests for financial aid. Other effects can be far more devastating, such as injuring or killing others.

What is the law? Not a drop.

Utah has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking. A person under the age of 21 years old who possesses, consumes, buys or tries to buy alcohol (even by asking somebody else to buy it) or who has any measurable amount of alcohol in his or her blood, breath or urine, is committing a crime under Utah law. It’s also illegal to give alcohol to underage kids.

Times have changed

Some parents may question setting rules about not drinking underage because they drank as a teen and feel they “turned out fine.” In today’s world, research shows that teens begin drinking at earlier ages and drink more at a sitting, putting them at far greater risk for addiction and harm to the developing brain. All parents need to set firm no-alcohol rules to protect their child’s health and keep them safe.

Chat & Set Rules

Healthy brains

Alcohol can interfere with healthy adolescent brain development, impacting long-term memory, learning, personality and judgement.12

Learn More


Alcohol can rewire developing brains for addiction, and the earlier that kids begin drinking, the more likely they are to become alcohol-dependent.13

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Parents are the #1 reason kids don’t drink

The harms of underage drinking are real, but as a parent, you can help prevent it. All kids need their parents’ help to stay alcohol-free and protect their healthy brain.

Learn How


1 Fergusson DM, Boden JM, Horwood L. Tests of Causal Links Between Alcohol Abuse or Dependence and Major Depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009; 66(3):260-266. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2008.543.
2 Jané-Llopis E. Matytsina I Mental health and alcohol, drugs and tobacco: a review of the comorbidity between mental disorders and the use of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs. Drug Alcohol Rev 2006; 25 (6) 515- 536.

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3 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Office of Applied Studies. The Relationship Between Mental Health and Substance Abuse Among Adolescents. (SMA) 99-3286. Rockville, MD: SAMHSA, 1999.
4 Hanna EZ, Hsiao-ye Y, Dufour MC, et al. The relationship of drinking and other substance use alone and in combination to health and behavior problems among youth ages 12-16: Findings from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES III). Paper presented at the 23rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, June 24-29, 2000, Denver, CO.
5 Windle M, Miller-Tutzauer C, Domenico D. Alcohol use, suicidal behavior, and risky activities among adolescents. J Res Adolesc 2(4):317-330, 1992.
6 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS): 2005-2015. National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services. BHSIS Series S-91, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 17-5037. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2017.
7 Cooper M.L, Orcutt H.K. Drinking and sexual experience on first dates among adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 1997;106:191–202.
8 Cooper M.L, Pierce R.S, Huselid R.F. Substance use and sexual risk taking among black adolescents and white adolescents. Health Psychology. 1994;13:251–262.
9 Virkkunen, M., & Linnoila, M. Serotonin and glucose metabolism in impulsively violent alcoholic offenders. In: Stoff, D.M., & Cairns, R.B., eds. Aggression and Violence. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996. pp. 87-100.
10 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, US Department of Transportation. Drunk driving: risk factors: age. Available at: https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving#age-5056. Accessed March 26, 2019.
11 https://drugabusestatistics.org/teen-drug-use/
12 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4669962/
13 https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/age-drinking-onset-predicts-future-alcohol-abuse-and-dependence

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