Underage Drinking Consequences

This article discusses some of the many consequences of underage drinking; including physical consequences, mental consequences, and legal consequences. The underage drinking consequences may be more than you think, keep reading to learn more.

Underage drinking can have serious consequences for teens and young adults. Though many parents see drinking as a rite of passage for teens, not all teens drink, and those who do are at serious risk for physical, mental, social, and legal problems. Teens who drink are more likely to use other drugs, become alcoholics, and die from alcohol-related illnesses and injuries. Parents who provide alcohol to teens can face serious legal consequences for their actions.

Physical Consequences

When teens drink, their bodies are affected by the alcohol. After teens drink they may experience hangovers, which can include headaches and nausea. Even having a single drink can interfere with judgement. Teens, while drinking, have a distorted sense of perception and reality, and slower reaction times. This increases their risks of injury or death from:

  • Falls
  • Burns
  • Drowning
  • Car Accidents
  • Homicide
  • Suicide

Every year, 5,000 teens die from alcohol-related injuries. 1,900 of these teens die in car accidents, 1,600 from homicide, and 300 from suicides. Underage drinkers are also at risk for fatal alcohol poisoning from drinking too much. Other teens suffer injuries that leave them with permanent scars or disabilities.

Another serious negative consequence of underage drinking is the increased risk of being a victim of sexual assault or rape. Both males and females can be victims. Most victims know the person who rapes them, and alcohol is a major risk factor for being a victim because it slows reactions and thinking, making it harder to refuse sex and harder to escape from an attacker. It may even make a person black out and not remember that they've been victimized. Rape drugs are also easily added to alcoholic drinks.

In addition to these consequences of underage drinking, teens who drink may also suffer long-term physical consequences, such as:

  • Alcoholism
  • Liver damage, especially in teens who are overweight or obese
  • Problems with hormones necessary for growth and development, which may affect development of organs, including reproductive organs
  • Heart damage
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Stomach problems
  • Malnutrition

Mental Consequences

When people drink, their thinking and feelings are altered. Underage drinking is linked with an increased occurrence of depression, anxiety, and suicide. The effects of alcohol on the mind are even more serious in teens and young people. The human mind continues developing until a person is in his or her twenties, and drinking while the brain is still developing can have long-term effects on a teen's brain.

Some of these long-term effects of underage drinking include:

  • Brain damage
  • Psychological dependence on alcohol
  • Memory problems
  • Problems thinking and learning
  • Social Consequences

Though many teens drink to experiment with something new and to fit in with their peers, underage drinking can have serious social consequences for teens.

Because drinking makes it harder for teens to make good decisions, they are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior while drinking. This can lead to bad reputations, unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases, some of which can be fatal.

Teens who drink alcohol are also more likely to hurt someone else. Though teens driving under the influence are at increased risk of killing themselves, almost half of those killed by teen drunk drivers are passengers or people in other cars. This means that the teen who was drinking and driving has to live with the knowledge that he or she killed someone else, perhaps a friend or an innocent stranger.

Underage drinking increases the risk that a person will drop out of school or have trouble finding and keeping a job, reducing the chances of being successful at whatever he or she wants to do in life. It also increases the risks of having relationship problems later in life. In these ways, underage drinking reduces the chances that a teen will have a happy and successful life.

Legal Consequences

Underage drinking is against the law. Teens who are caught drinking may face legal consequences depending on their age and where they live, such as losing their driver's license, paying fines, or even serving time in jail. Drinking also increases the risk that a teen will commit another serious crime, including homicide and rape.

Adults who provide alcohol to minors can be held legally responsible for anything that happens when the teens drink, and can face legal consequences, including heavy fines and jail time. Because of the serious consequences of underage drinking, adults should never provide alcohol to teens, and should talk to their children early about the many reasons why teens should not use alcohol.


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "Underage Drinking: A Major Public Health Challenge" [online]

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "Why do Adolescents Drink, What are the Risks, and How Can Underage Drinking be Prevented" [online]

Too Smart To Start, "Negative Consequences of Underage Drinking" [online]

Nemours, KidsHealth, "Kids and Alcohol"

Related Article: Underage Drinking Laws >>