Studies indicate that drinking can interfere with normal brain development1. Drinking is also associated with decreased school performance2, increased involvement with the legal system3, use of other substances4, and greater risk of injuries, including death from motor vehicle crashes.5
Over the past 20 years, prevention efforts have made steady progress in reducing alcohol misuse among youth and young adults due to comprehensive evidence-based approaches by communities, states, and federal partners. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, between 2002 and 2020, current drinking by adolescents and young adults has declined. Among 12- to 17-year-olds, current drinking declined from 34.6 percent in 2002 to 18.5 percent in 2020, and among 18- to 25-year-olds it declined from 77.9 percent to 69.5 percent during the same period. Going forward, we must keep this positive momentum and continue to maximize the keys to that success.
Research from the Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking indicates that prevention strategies are most effective when implemented as part of a multifaceted approach that includes parents and families, law enforcement, health care providers, community organizations, schools and universities, local and state governments, and the federal government.
This April, as we observe Alcohol Awareness Month, there is an important opportunity to highlight the positive impact of the effectiveness of underage drinking prevention strategies and messaging at all levels, while advancing proven strategies, exploring innovations, and highlighting the power of partnerships.
One way to advance this work is by putting tools and resources in the hands of parents, caregivers, and others who interact with young people every day and have the power to engage them in conversations about the importance of alcohol avoidance and other healthy lifestyle choices.
SAMHSA has resources to help parents, caregivers, and other caring adults who talk with young people about the risks and harms of using alcohol and other substances of misuse. Here are a few ways to connect youth to alcohol misuse awareness and prevention resources:
- Go to StopAlcoholAbuse.gov for the latest research and resources to support underage drinking prevention and related issues.
- Read Communities Talk success stories as inspiration for activities that are working across the country to prevent underage drinking.
- Learn and share the facts on alcohol misuse and share evidence-based resources from the SAMHSA Store, such as:
- Share SAMHSA’s National Helpline—1–800–662–HELP (4357) with individuals facing mental and/or substance use disorders and in need of immediate help.
- Direct individuals in suicidal crisis or emotional distress to support through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—1–800–273–8255.
- Refer to the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which goes live in July 2022 and will be operated through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Together, with continued energy and dedication, we can help our nation’s youth and young adults live healthy lives without the harmful effects of drinking and other substance misuses.
1Pfefferbaum, A., Kwon, D., Brumback, T., Thompson, W. K., Cummins, K., Tapert, S. F., Brown, S. A., Colrain, I. M., Baker, F. C., Prouty, D., De Bellis, M. D., Clark, D. B., Nagel, B. J., Chu, W., Park, S. H., Pohl, K. M., & Sullivan, E. V. (2018). Altered Brain Developmental Trajectories in Adolescents After Initiating Drinking. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 175(4), 370–380. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17040469
2U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020). Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking. Retrieved from https://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/media/ReportToCongress/2020/report_main/2020_Report_to_Congress.pdf
3Popovici, I., Homer, J. F., Fang, H., & French, M. T. (2012). Alcohol use and crime: Findings from a longitudinal sample of U.S. adolescents and young adults. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 36(3), 532–543. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01641.x
4Hingson, R. W., Heeren, T., & Winter, M. R. (2006). Age at drinking onset and alcohol dependence: age at onset, duration, and severity. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 160(7), 739–746. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpedi.160.7.739
5NIAAA. Underage drinking. 2020. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/UnderageDrinking/UnderageFact.h…. Accessed March 28, 2022.