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Effects and Consequences of Underage Drinking

NCJ Number
Date Published
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
This bulletin presents findings from a literature review that investigated the effects of underage drinking on youth’s physical, emotional, and neurological health.
The bulletin is part of OJJDP’s underage drinking bulletin series, which provides guidelines for communities developing treatment and prevention programs. This study discusses the personal, legal, and economic consequences of underage drinking. Results suggest that raising the minimum age to purchase alcohol to 21 in the United States has had an exceptionally positive effect on the health and safety of youth. Unfortunately, underage drinking is still common and can have tragic consequences. Many people view drinking alcohol as a fairly typical activity for youth and young adults, and young people often find it relatively easy to obtain alcoholic beverages. However, the psychoactive properties of alcohol cause impaired decision making, poor coordination, and engagement in risky behaviors. Alcohol use can damage the brain and other body systems and organs. Underage drinkers often face legal consequences for their actions. When establishing penalties for youth, justice system professionals must work on changing the attitudes and behaviors of underage drinkers to avert further consequences for the youth and their families. Communities and the justice system must provide prevention, intervention, and treatment services early so that youth stop drinking, start living productive lives, and contribute to their communities. Tables, endnotes, and references
Date Created: September 30, 2019