What are the Negative Consequences of Underage Drinking?

There are increased risks and a range of negative consequences related to underage drinking. It is dangerous because it:

Causes many deaths. Alcohol plays a role in the deaths of approximately 4,350 young people under age 21 every year.  These deaths include:

  • 1,580 deaths from car crashes
  • 1,270 from murders
  • 245 from alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, and drowning
  • 490 from suicides

Causes many injuries. Drinking alcohol can cause young people to have accidents and get hurt. In 2011, about 188,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for injuries related to drinking alcohol.

Increases the risk of physical and sexual assault. Young people under age 21 who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.

Can lead to other problems. Drinking can cause teens to have trouble in school or with the law. Teens who drink are more likely to use other drugs than teens who don’t.

Can lead to developing an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs) are medical conditions that doctors diagnose when someone’s drinking causes them distress or harm. In 2014 about 679,000 young people ages 12-17 had an AUD. Even more important, the younger the use of alcohol the more likely one is to develop an AUD later in life.

Increases the risk of cancer. Drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing various cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver, and breast.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.