The Dangers of Under Age Drinking

The Dangers of Under Age Drinking

In the United States, underage drinking is a prevalent public health concern. The typical age of first usage is around 14 years old, and nearly 30% of adolescents have tasted alcohol before the age of 13.1 This statistic is frightening when considering that more than 407,000 underage youth in New Jersey consume alcohol annually.2 Alcohol consumption can negatively affect a teen’s developing brain and produce long-term cognitive impairments, which is worrisome. Higher risks of alcohol poisoning, sexual assault, accidents, injuries, suicide, and death are also linked to underage drinking.3 Many teenagers nevertheless choose to drink despite the risks because of things like peer pressure, stress release, or boredom. Schools, parents, and communities have the power to take action to stop underage drinking and safeguard children.

How Schools Can Help

Education is one of the most effective preventative measures.4 Starting at a young age, schools should educate kids about the risks associated with underage drinking. The legal, social, and health repercussions of underage drinking should be covered by various health lessons and any other courses in which it applies. For instance, teenagers should be aware of how alcohol negatively affects brain development and raises the likelihood of developing alcoholism in later life. Additionally, students must be aware of the legal repercussions of underage drinking and drunk driving.5 Teens’ drinking habits can be reduced by empowering them with information.

Schools can implore the use of diverse methods to monitor students’ alcohol consumption, varying by location, policies, and regulations. Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is a nationally recognized, evidence-based public health approach to early intervention and treatment for individuals with substance use disorders, as well as those who are at risk of developing these disorders.6 SBIRT includes a screening tool that quickly assesses the severity of substance use and identifies the appropriate level of treatment.6 Additionally, the Brief intervention aspect focuses on increasing insight and awareness regarding substance use and motivation toward behavioral change while the referral to treatment component provides those identified as needing more extensive treatment with access to specialty care.6 School nurses, counselors, and social workers can become trained in SBIRT and encouraged to use the tool to identify at-risk youth as well as the best measures to take in the event of substance use.

Some schools can also choose to implement anonymous reporting systems, allowing students, teachers, or staff to report concerns about alcohol use without fear of retaliation.7 To strengthen these efforts, schools often integrate alcohol education programs aimed at raising awareness about the hazards of alcohol consumption.7 These programs may include counseling and support services for students grappling with alcohol-related issues. Parental involvement is also a critical component, with schools communicating concerns about a student’s alcohol use to parents.8 Establishing a partnership between schools and parents proves crucial in addressing and preventing substance abuse.

How Parents Can Help

Parents can effectively prevent underage drinking by implementing a comprehensive approach that includes fostering open communication with their children. Creating an environment where children feel comfortable discussing their thoughts and concerns builds trust, allowing parents to convey the risks associated with underage drinking effectively. By setting clear expectations regarding alcohol use and consistently modeling responsible behavior, parents play a crucial role in reinforcing positive attitudes and choices in their children.8 It is important to note that parents and guardians who host gatherings in which alcohol is present for minors are at risk for legal penalties. For example, in New Jersey, any person who serves or makes alcohol available to a person under the legal drinking age of 21 is subject to a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail per person served.9 Parents and guardians can also be held civilly liable even if they are not present during the time of the party.9 Parents can actively discourage underage drinking by encouraging their children to engage in positive alternatives and activities, such as hosting alcohol-free events or supporting supervised social gatherings.8 This collective strategy, combining communication, clear expectations, and positive reinforcement, helps guide children toward responsible choices regarding alcohol.

How Communities Can Help

Communities play a pivotal role in reducing underage drinking rates through concerted efforts and collaborative initiatives. Establishing comprehensive prevention programs that involve schools, parents, law enforcement, and local organizations is key. Community-wide education campaigns can raise awareness about the risks and consequences of underage drinking, targeting both parents and adolescents. Initiatives that encourage healthy behaviors can also be used including media campaigns and youth programs.10 Stricter alcohol control measures, such as ID checks at the point of sale and high alcohol taxes, may reduce access to alcoholic beverages by minors.11 To consistently implement and promote anti-underage drinking regulations, law enforcement should work with educational institutions and parents.

There have been too many tragic consequences of underage drinking; in order to safeguard the health and safety of teenagers, a strategy involving parents, communities, and schools is required. Public policy, family support, and evidence-based education must all be involved in prevention. Thus, collaborative efforts can ensure that teenagers make wise decisions and stay away from the dangers of underage alcohol use.


  1. (n.d.). 11 Facts About Teens and Alcohol.
  2. State of New Jersey Department of Human Services. (n.d.). Childhood Underage Drinking.,strategy%20to%20prevent%20underage%20drinking.
  3. New Mexico State University. (n.d.). Underage Drinking. Office of Health Promotion.
  4. U.S. Department of Transportation. (2001, March). Community How To Guide on Prevention & Education. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  5. Lawrence Kansas. (n.d.). Legal Consequences of Underage Involvement with Alcohol.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2022, August 12). Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT).
  7. Council on School Health and Committee on Substance Abuse. (2007). The role of schools in combating illicit substance abuse. Pediatrics, 120(6), 1379-1384.
  8. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2023, September). Parenting to Prevent Childhood Alcohol Use. Alcohol’s Effect on Health.,that%20can%20have%20lifelong%20consequences.
  9. New Jersey (2022). NJSA 2C:33-17.
  10. Wakefield, M. A., Loken, B., & Hornik, R. C. (2010). Use of mass media campaigns to change health behaviour. The Lancet, 376(9748), 1261-1271.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018). Getting to zero alcohol-impaired driving fatalities: A comprehensive approach to a persistent problem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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