The Dangers of Underage Drinking

Updated by Jim Deckebach

Wine glass and bottleAlcohol use among teens is a real and dangerous problem and can contribute to risky behaviors and poor choices made by teens under the influence. Curious as many teens are about alcohol use, it is important to remember that a teenager's brain isn't even fully developed yet; that development won't be complete until their mid-20s or early 30s. Adding alcohol in the form of wine, beer, or liquor, to the brain can only inhibit its function and growth. Likewise, the body is still growing in one's teen years, too. But peer pressure and a fear of missing out can trump all of a teen's better judgment and the desire to fit in, to experiment, and to feel included may include sharing in underage drinking and risky behaviors. It is important to know the risks of teen drinking and the reality of its consequences.

Impaired Judgment

Drinking lets down our inhibitions. It clouds our judgment and contributes to poor decisions that may lead to harm, harm to one's self and/or harm to others. Alcohol and excessive drinking cause over 4,300 underage deaths each year. It may also contribute to any one of the following risks:

  • Accidental falls or drowning
  • Car accidents, fatal or otherwise
  • Suicide
  • Homicide or violence

Alcohol may also contribute to someone being the victim of a crime. One may be more susceptible to an assault and accident when they are not aware of their actions or surroundings. Being slow to react or even unconscious or otherwise impaired is unsafe and disarms us from taking the best care of ourselves.

Risky Sexual Behaviors

Alcohol impairs our best judgment in sexual situations as well and the risk of being involved in a sexual assault or rape increases when drinking is involved. Drinking makes it even harder to regulate our behaviors, harder to communicate, and harder to appropriately assess a situation, which can contribute in many different ways to a sexual assault or rape. The risk of contracting an STD or experiencing an unwanted pregnancy may also increase with the introduction of alcohol.

Brain Function & Performance in School

Brain cells damaged by alcohol use may contribute to behavioral problems, cognitive delays, and memory loss; all of which may impact one's performance in school. High school students who engage in underage drinking are handicapping themselves during an already stressful and demanding season of life. Risking one's academic standing in favor of underage drinking has lasting consequences that may extend further than their high school career.

Alcohol-Related Health Problems

Alcohol may contribute to the following health problems in underage teen drinkers:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obesity

Long-term use of alcohol while the body is still developing may impact growth and puberty. It can also cause severe liver damage. Other long-term health risks of alcohol abuse include:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Dementia
  • Cancer

Alcohol Abuse Resources for Teens


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