Underage Drinking: How It Affects Your Body, Mind, & Decisions

Alcohol, Health, Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Crime, Safety, Trouble

It seems like everybody’s drinking underage these days. Teens get together on weekends at a friends house while their parents are gone, an older friend or sibling brings some alcohol, and they throw themselves a little party. That’s what all the cool kids do, right? Why should we have to wait to drink til we’re 21, what’s the big deal?

Your body and brain aren’t fully developed yet, and alcohol can seriously affect you. That’s the big deal.

Studies show that about 26% of youth between 12-20 drink regularly. As teens get older, they are more likely to start drinking. Even though drinking seems like a cool, fun social thing to do, think about the consequences. You could:

  • Get arrested: Getting an MIP is something that would go on your record. You could have to pay a fine, do community service, and/or spend some time in jail. Plus, you don’t want to have to tell future employers that you’ve been arrested.
  • Get suspended from school: Even if you’re drinking on your own time away from school, you’ve still committed a crime and your school can get involved.
  • Get suspended or kicked off of a team/club: Sports teams especially take partying and drinking very seriously. Not only does drinking affect your health and athletic ability, but most teams encourage players to be responsible and make smart decisions.
  • Get grounded: Your parents could take away privileges like playing video games, watching TV, and going out with friends.
  • Lose driving privileges: If you get caught driving under the influence, the state could take your drivers license away. Even if you don’t drive drunk, your parents could take your car keys away as punishment.

Besides the fear of getting caught and the consequences you’ll face for underage drinking, alcohol can seriously affect your brain and your entire body. Even if you feel mature enough to drink, or if you’re over 18 and a legal adult, there’s a reason the legal age for alcohol consumption is 21. For those over 21, sure, there is a healthy amount of alcohol consumption that is okay to drink before it starts affecting your body and judgment. For women it’s usually about 1 glass, for men it’s about 2. But for anyone under 21, there’s no healthy amount. Your body and brain are not fully developed until you’re in your early 20’s, and therefore alcohol can do some serious damage to nearly your entire body.

Here’s how:

  1. 100% of alcohol is absorbed into your blood stream when consumed.
  2. Alcohol can do damage to your liver, kidneys, and pancreas, especially when they aren’t fully developed.
  3. It can alter your sleep patterns.
  4. It can affect basic motor function overall, making it difficult for you to perform simple tasks like standing up or walking.
  5. It can alter your thoughts and emotions, affecting your judgment and causing you to make decisions you wouldn’t normally make.
  6. It can elevate your heart rate and blood pressure.
  7. It can cause long term damage your brain and cause you to have memory problems.

Binge drinking, or drinking large amounts of alcohol at a time, can also lead to some serious accidents. If you drive while drunk, you can kill yourself or someone else, whether it’s your friend in the car with you or a stranger on the street. You could make the decision to get in a car with someone who’s driving drunk, which could result in you getting killed. You could have unintentional sex which might even lead to an unplanned pregnancy. You might even do something reckless to kill or injure yourself or someone else.

Doesn’t it sound like it’s worth it to just wait until you’re 21?

Shameless sales tactics

Alcohol, Juvenile Crime

It is no secret that the target customer of beer and other alcohol companies is young people. No one ever sees middle-aged people that have gray hair having a drink in advertisements. This image does not sell. However, images of young, attractive, perfect-looking people do sell to all audiences.

Old Navy has jumped on this bandwagon and is trying to take advantage of teen drinking with the sell of their metal beverage containers and graphic t-shirts.

Oregon Partnership sent a letter to the CEO of  Gap, which owns Old Navy stores, stating:

“…the sale of such items to a young customer base is repugnant and goes against the company’s pledge of social responsibility.”

A spokes person responded to the letter:

“…at Old Navy, we strive to offer merchandise that appeal to a wide range of interests….it is never our intention to offend our customers and we apologize for any concerns related to our product.”

This response is half-hearted, to say the least. It is obvious the Gap company does not feel it needs to raise its standards and morals when selling products to the young people to purchase most of its merchandise.

Underage drinking is against the law. Killing is against the law. Stealing and holding people hostage is against the law. We don’t see companies selling t-shirts that advertise killing or kidnapping, which we agree are both against the law. But some, like Old Navy, try to promote an unlawful activity by selling merchandise that is marketed to young people.

Yes, these are just t-shirts and a “water” bottle. No, this is not the end of the world. But when alcohol has cause the devastating problems we see among teens today, adults need to help minors make good choices and be more creative in the products they choose to sell. And one last note: no where on these products does it say that people under the age of 21 should not drink or that underage drinking is against the law.

Alcohol and the ladies…

Alcohol, Teen Pregnancy


Most people assume that men drink more alcohol than women. Research shows that theory to be true for the over 21 (legal to drink) population.

An interesting and troubling fact is that the trend is reversed for young girls and boys. When 8th graders are polled about their lifestyle choices, more girls than boys admit to consuming alcohol within the last 30 days. More girls than boys also admit to engaging in “binge drinking” which is defined as consuming more than five alcoholic drinks on the same occasion.

As young teens age, the gap shrinks before the trend reverses as teens enter adulthood (age 18, still not legal age for alcohol consumption).


One explanation is the advertisements. Producers of alcoholic drinks frequently advertise in magazines that are sold to teens. The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth found that girls age 12-20 (all underage girls) were exposed to 68% MORE beer advertisement than their over 21 adult women counterparts. Boys between 12 and 20 also saw 29% more beer ads than men 21 or over. Girls saw 30% more ads than 21+ women for distilled spirits while boys and men saw about the same amount. Perhaps the most troublesome finding is that girls who are not yet of legal drinking age saw NINETY-FIVE PERCENT (95%) more ads than legal aged women for low-alcohol refreshers, also called alcopops, malternatives, or chick beer.

The advertisements have increased in frequency and are flooding magazines that young girls tend to buy. In 2002, girls’ exposure to magazine-based alcohol ads increased 216% compared to the year before. Boys’ exposure increased only 46% (still very significant) in their magazines. Sixteen alcohol brands made up more than half of the ads to which girls between 12 and 20 were exposed.

While girls continue to consume more alcohol, they also continue to have the most frequent, long-lasting, and immediate consequences for giving in to the walls of alcohol advertisements.

– girls and women are more susceptible to alcohol induced health problems related to the heart, brain, and/or liver
– women and men metabolize alcohol different so women may gain more weight than men as a result of consuming the booze-based calories
– several analyses have found that female consumption of alcohol increases the chances of developing breast cancer – a trend not matched with men
– teenage girls who are identified as binge drinkers are 63% more likely to become teen mothers than girls who do not drink
– in prisons, a survey revealed that 40% of sexual offenders assaulted women while they were under the influence of alcohol
– in domestic violence calls, 67% involve an abuser who consumed alcohol

If alcohol companies claim they are not advertising to teens; not targeting underage youth to begin or continue to drink, why would they advertise in magazines primarily purchased and viewed by that exact population? Is it ethical for magazine publishers and distributors to sell ad space to booze pushers when they know the purchasers of their magazines are largely underage youth? What could be done about it? Should the magazine producers be held accountable or is it the responsibility of the alcohol producer to be careful where they advertise?

Drinking Age






                                                                                                                                    Alcohol is addictive. It is mind altering. It is dangerous, especially when abused. At what age does it become appropriate to allow people to make the choice to use it or not?

Multiple states including Wisconsin, Florida, Vermont, Missouri, and now Oregon have considered lowing the state legal age for alcohol consumption from 21 to 18. Some experts believe the change could reduce binge drinking. Others believe it could put our youth at more risk for abuse than ever.

In Oregon, some university presidents have signed on to a federal initiative urging legislators to reduce the drinking age. The change is driven largely by alcohol abuse in the university system. Universities have tried to educate students about responsible party hosting, the psychological, physical, and emotional risks of underage drinking, and about academic, physical, and legal consequences of making poor choices regarding alcohol use and abuse. Numbers of alcohol related issues have not changed much for all that effort.

Research shows that more than 40% of college students report at least one symptom of alcohol abuse. One study indicated that more than 500,000 students at 4-year universities suffer injuries each year related to drinking. Disturbingly, about 1,700 die from such incidents. BIG PROBLEM!

An Associated Press analysis found that 157 people aged 18-23 drank themselves to death between 1999 and 2005. These numbers are thought to be caused mostly by binge drinking at parties. Social pressure and the desire to be an adult drive the trend. Do you think lowering the age, making it more okay to consume alcohol in whatever setting the user chooses would help?

The drinking age was not always set at 21. It was raised to that age more than 20 years ago to eliminate young adult alcohol abuse. To evaluate the effectiveness of the law, some claim we should just consider whether people under 21 are drinking more or less than they were 20 years ago. Clearly, teens are still drinking. Others believe the evaluation of the law should be in looking at deaths and dangers related to abuse of the substance. It is notable that alcohol related fatalities have been reduced since raising the drinking age to 21.

Some compare the current age restriction to prohibition, in that it forces drinking to be “underground” where it cannot be regulated or controlled. The supporters of the measure argue that if drinking was legal for all college students, they would not have to hide and they could feel safe calling 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. Others argue that legalizing alcohol for all teens would cause more students to experiment, while some abstain with the current system.

When interviewed through a Gallup poll, 77 percent of Americans recently said that they would oppose lowering the drinking age.

Do you think lowering the drinking age would reduce dangerous binge drinking, alcohol related car crashes, alcohol abuse, or alcohol related death or would it allow more teens to experiment with the very addictive and altering drug causing more trouble?

By guest blogger: Beth W.