The short- and long-term consequences that arise from underage alcohol consumption are astonishing in their range and magnitude, affecting adolescents, the people around them, and society as a whole. Adolescence is a time of life characterized by robust physical health and low incidence of disease, yet overall morbidity and mortality rates increase 200 percent between middle childhood and late adolescence/early adulthood (Surgeon General’s Call to Action, page 10).
This dramatic rise is attributable in large part to the increase in risk-taking, sensation-seeking, and erratic behavior that follows the onset of puberty and which contributes to violence, unintentional injuries, risky sexual behavior, homicide, and suicide1 (Call to Action, page 10).
Alcohol frequently plays a role in these adverse outcomes and the human tragedies they produce. Among the most prominent adverse consequences of underage alcohol use are those listed below.
Annually, about 5,000 people under age 21 die from alcohol-related injuries involving underage drinking. Approximately:
1,900 (38 percent) of the 5,000 deaths involve motor vehicle crashes,
1,600 (32 percent) result from homicides, and
300 (6 percent) result from suicides (Call to Action, page 10).