Preventing Underage Drinking

The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey* found that among high school students, during a period of 30 days:

  • 30% consumed alcohol

  • 14% participated in binge drinking

  • 6% operated a vehicle after drinking alcohol

  • 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol

Other national surveys reported:

Consequences of Underage Drinking

Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience:

  • School problems, such as higher absences and poor or failing grades.

  • Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.

  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.

  • Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.

  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.

  • Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.

  • Physical and sexual assault.

  • Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls and drowning.

  • Memory problems.

  • Abuse of other drugs.

  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.

  • Death from alcohol poisoning.

In general, the risk of youth experiencing these problems is greater for those who binge drink than those who do not binge drink.  Early initiation of drinking is associated with the development of an alcohol use disorder later in life.

Tips on Preventing Underage Drinking

Reducing underage drinking will require community-based efforts to monitor the activities of youth and decrease youth access to alcohol. Recent publications by the Surgeon General and the Institute of Medicine outlined many prevention strategies for the prevention of underage drinking, such as the enforcement of minimum legal drinking age laws, national media campaigns targeting youth and adults, increasing alcohol excise taxes, reducing youth exposure to alcohol advertising, and development of comprehensive community-based programs.


There are several programs and training that we offer to help in the prevention of underage drinking. Click on these pages to learn more:


*Kann L, McManus T, Harris WA, et al. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2017. MMWR Surveill Summ 2018; 67(No. SS-8):1–114.

**Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables pdf icon[PDF-35MB].external icon Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD; 2017.

***Johnston, LD, Miech RA, O’Malley PM, Miech RA, Schulenberg JE, & Patrick ME. Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2017: 2017 Overview- Key findings on adolescent drug use pdf icon[PDF-4.4 MB]external icon. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan; 2018.

Content on this page was provided by CDC Facts Sheets - Underage Drinking