Underage Drinking Facts:
The legal drinking age in Massachusetts and every other
state is 21. It is against the law to serve or provide
alcohol to underage guests or to allow them to drink alcohol
in your home or on other property you control. If you do,
you may be prosecuted criminally. The penalty is a fine up
to $2,000, imprisonment for up to a year, or both. G.L.
c.138, sec. 34.
On a typical weekend in the United States, an average of one
teenager per hour dies in a car crash. More than 45% of
these crashes involve alcohol. (MADD, 2002)
Underage drinking affects teens from early on.
Most children first try alcohol between ages 10-14,[i] and
28 percent of all Massachusetts high school students
reported having their first drink prior to age 13.
Almost half of 4th – 6th graders say their friends want them
to try alcohol.
Half of 6th graders who drink get their alcohol at home.
Underage drinking hinders teens in school.
Adolescents who drink are more likely to fall behind and do
worse in school than those who don’t drink.
Teen drinkers scored worse than non-drinkers on vocabulary,
general information, and memory retrieval tests.[i]
Teens who started drinking heavily by or before age 11 had a
10 percent lower ability to retain verbal and nonverbal
information than non-drinkers. A 10 percent difference may
not seem like much, but it translates to a full letter grade
lower in the classroom
Underage drinking puts teens at risk.
Alcohol leads to decreased inhibition, poor decision-making
and increased risk-taking.
Teens who drink have a higher risk of social problems,
anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and violence.[i]
31 percent of Massachusetts students said they rode with a
driver under the influence of alcohol within the past 30
12 percent of Massachusetts students reported driving after
Drinking a large amount of alcohol quickly (called “alcohol
poisoning”) can cause death.
Parents can help put an end to underage drinking.
By being the first to talk to their children about underage
drinking, parents can keep their teens thinking, and not
Parents who do drink alcohol can model good choices by not
going above the American Heart Association’s limitations for
alcohol use—one drink a day for women, and no more than two
drinks a day for men.[i]
Parents should be involved in the lives of their children
and actively support positive choices.[ii]
Parents should avoid having unlocked or unmonitored alcohol
Parents should not ask youth to serve drinks.
Parents who have had problems with alcohol and/or other
drugs can show youth that it’s acceptable to say, “No
thanks,” to alcohol.
[i] American Heart Association. www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4561
[ii] Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of
Substance Abuse Services/Massachusetts Health Promotion
Clearinghouse, The Medical Foundation. “Be the First to Talk
with your Pre-Teen about Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs. A
Family Guide.” 2003