Under 21 Drinking

What Everyone Should Know

Drinking by those 21 and under is widespread and is justifiably associated with both irresponsible and heavy drinking. Underage drinkers are more likely to binge drink than are adults. Underage drinkers are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors after drinking such as unprotected sex, vandalism, other drug use, delinquency, weapon carrying and fighting, and perpetrating or being the victim of date rape. All of these problems are magnified by the early onset of teen alcohol drinking: the younger the drinker, the worse the problems.

The younger a child begins to drink the greater the risk of later alcohol dependency. A national survey of survey found that 47%, nearly one half, of children who began drinking alcohol before age 14 subsequently became alcohol dependent at some time in their lives. If drinking is prevented until the age 21 those who later become alcohol dependent at some point is reduced to just 9%.

The conclusions are clear. Early alcohol intervention, monitoring and detection by concerned parents is one of the kindest things you can do for your child. Through pro-active education, good role modeling, and the use of a variety of other tools such as breath alcohol testers (breathalyzers), parents can make an early and profoundly positive impact on a child’s lifelong relationship with alcohol.


The younger a child begins to drink the greater the risk of later alcohol dependency. A national survey of survey found that 47%, nearly one half, of children who began drinking alcohol before age 14 subsequently became alcohol dependent at some time in their lives.


Determine if your teenager has been drinking with the LifeGuard Breathalyzer

Adolescent Drinking at Home

The debate continues as to whether prohibiting children from consuming alcohol leads to greater alcohol abuse down the road or not. Proponents of zero tolerance point to studies that show the more frequently parents allow home drinking by children the more they are likely to drink later on and the more they may be likely to binge drink. Those against zero tolerance practices point to a lack of compelling evidence and studies that support zero tolerance.

In some states it is legal to serve your own children alcohol in the home under close parental supervision (in your presence) but not to the point of intoxication or danger to themselves. In other states parents may only serve limited amounts of alcohol to their underage children on certain religious grounds.

State laws all agree on one thing. It is illegal in every state for an adult to serve alcohol to someone else’s child. Never do it or allow it to be done by someone else on property you control.

Not in My Family

If you think underage drinking is unlikely to occur in your family, think again. Concerned parents may be very surprised at the statistics.

Each year, approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of drinking; this includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 homicides, 300 suicides, as well as deaths from injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning

Under 21 Drivers

All fifty U.S. States and the District of Columbia have "Zero Tolerance" or "Not a Drop" laws for drivers under the age of 21. These laws make it illegal for those under the age of 21 to drive with any amount of alcohol in their blood. The limit is not .08 BAC as with legal age drinkers. It is zero for those under 21 caught drinking and driving.

If an officer has probable cause to believe that a driver under the legal drinking age of 21 has been drinking they are empowered to require a breath test from the subject. Refusal can mean license revocation, and the subject may also be immediately charged with other related offenses such as possession of alcohol by a minor.

If you suspect your underage child or your friend of drinking and driving don’t ignore your suspicions. An inexperienced driver who is also an underage drinker makes for a potentially tragic combination. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause impairment in adolescents. Don’t allow them behind the wheel without knowing that alcohol is not involved at either the beginning or end of their travels.

Underage Drinking Parties

State laws for the hosting of underage drinking parties are designed to deter underage drinking. Parties can be high risk settings for binge drinking and associated alcohol abuses. Social host laws address this issue by holding adults responsible for parties that occur on their property whether or not they provided the alcohol to minors and whether or not they are present.

State Profiles of Underage Drinking Laws

Whether parents adopt a zero or limited tolerance home environment for their children LifeGuard can be an effective home monitor and measure of alcohol consumption. It can detect even the smallest traces of breath alcohol, as low as .02 BAC.

For more information on the underage drinking laws in your state visit the Alcohol Policy Information System.

Underage Drinking Links

Why do Adolescents Drink, What are the Risks, and How can Underage Drinking be Prevented

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Results from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

US Department of Health & Human Services: Underage Drinking - January 2006

What parents need to know about College Drinking