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Underage alcohol use

  • Average age at first use: 12.8 (Indiana Youth Survey, 2018)
  • Teens who drink before 15 are 40% more likely to develop alcohol dependency as adults (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
  • More than 4,000 young people under 21 die every year due to alcohol contributable causes including car crashes, alcohol poisoning, falls, drownings, suicide and homicide (National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens)
  • 9% of 12- to17-year-olds have consumed alcohol in the past month (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2018)
  • 55% of 18- to 25-year-olds have consumed alcohol in the past month (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2018)

Myths versus facts

Myth: Everyone drinks.
Fact: Most young people don’t drink alcohol. In Indiana, alcohol use has decreased in most grades.

Myth: Beer and wine are safer than liquor.
Fact: Alcohol is alcohol. A standard glass of wine (5 ounces), a beer (12 ounces) and a shot of liquor (1 to 1.5 ounces) all have the same amount of alcohol.

Myth: Kids in Europe drink and they don’t have any problems.
Fact: Many countries in Europe have higher binge drinking rates than the U.S. and also have higher rates of alcohol-related liver diseases and deaths.

Myth: If I can vote, sign documents and go to war at 18, then I should be able to drink.
Fact: Your brain isn’t fully developed until around 25, so any drug you consume, including alcohol, has a negative and permanent impact on your brain.

Health risks

  • The brain is not fully developed until age 25 so any use of alcohol can be damaging. Alcohol can impact learning and memory, judgment, balance and mood. Alcohol also slows down the respiratory system, blurs vision, slurs speech and slows reaction time (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).
  • Alcohol increases the risk of physical and sexual assault.
  • Alcohol increases the risk of developing cancers including mouth, esophagus, liver and breast cancer.
  • Alcohol can stress your heart leading to high blood pressure or even a stroke.
  • Alcohol can cause fat to build up in your liver which becomes scar tissue and leads to liver failure.

Parent questions

  • Warning signs of underage drinking:
    • Changes in mood
    • Academic and/or behavioral problems in school
    • Rebelliousness
    • Changing groups of friends
    • Low energy level
    • Less interest in activities
    • Problems concentrating or remembering
    • Slurred speech
    • Coordination problems
  • Warning signs of alcohol poisoning:
    • Acting confused
    • Throwing up
    • Breathing is slowed or difficult (fewer than eight breaths a minute)
    • Slow pulse
    • Seizures
    • Skin looks pale or bluish and feels clammy
    • Loss of bodily functions
    • Low body temperature
    • Passed out – cannot be woken up
    • NEVER let someone “sleep it off,” especially if they have any of these symptoms which may start out mild and get worse. CALL 911! Place them on their side and stay with them until help arrives.