The Facts About Underage Drinking

The following section provides a background on the prevalence, characteristics and consequences of underage drinking both at a state and national level.

National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine Report

Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. In 2003, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a report to Congress entitled, Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. The report, which was officially published the following year, presents a through review of the underage drinking issue and suggests a comprehensive package of recommendations to address the problem. The NAS report is structured in a way to easily facilitate the implementation of changes to policies, practices, and conditions that contribute to the problem of underage drinking.


The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking

On March 6, 2007 Acting U.S. Surgeon General Kenneth P. Moritsugu issued the Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking, appealing to the Nation to do more to stop America’s 11 million current underage drinkers from using alcohol, and to keep other young people from starting.

Developed in collaboration with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Call to Action identifies six goals:

  • Engage parents, schools, communities, all levels of government, all social systems that interface with youth, and youth themselves in a coordinated national effort to prevent and reduce underage drinking and its consequences.
  • Foster changes in society that facilitate healthy adolescent development and that help prevent and reduce underage drinking.
  • Promote an understanding of underage alcohol consumption in the context of human development and maturation that takes into account individual adolescent characteristics as well as environmental, ethnic, cultural, and gender differences.
  • Conduct additional research on adolescent alcohol use and its relationship to development.
  • Work to improve public health surveillance on underage drinking and on population-based risk factors for this behavior.
  • Work to ensure that policies at all levels are consistent with the national goal of preventing and reducing underage alcohol consumption.


“Alcohol remains the most heavily abused substance by America’s youth,” said Dr. Moritsugu. “This Call to Action is attempting to change the culture and attitudes toward drinking in America. We can no longer ignore what alcohol is doing to our children.”

Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center: The Center was established by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to support its Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL) Program. Its mission was to provide science-based, practical, and effective training and technical assistance to States and communities working to combat underage drinking through law enforcement and environmental management strategies. is a comprehensive portal of Federal resources for information on underage drinking and ideas for combating this issue. People interested in underage drinking prevention—including parents, educators, community-based organizations, and youth—will find a wealth of valuable information here.(

Alcohol Justice: Alcohol Justice fights to protect the public from the impact of the alcohol industry’s negative practices. They monitor and expose the alcohol industry’s harmful actions related to products, promotions and social influence, and support communities in their efforts to reject these damaging activities. Examples include the economic cost of underage alcopop consumption

NC Alcohol Data Dashboard – The North Carolina Division of Public Health created this website to increase the accessibility of data that describes the impact of excessive alcohol drinking in the state. The topics covered in the dashboard include: overview of excessive alcohol use, related public health strategies, data on alcohol outlet density, alcohol consumption rates, immediate- and long-term impacts of excessive use, and cost to communities. This website also displays a cumulative data dashboard and bibliography describing sources for more information.

Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data for North Carolina – View a summary of data from the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey describing the risky behavior and problems associated with underage drinking in North Carolina.

Quick Statistics on Underage drinking:

North Carolina Youth Risk Behavior Survey – NC Healthy Schools implements a statewide Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The NC YRBS helps assess behaviors in youth that impact their health now and in the future. Topics include violence, personal safety, physical activity, nutrition , mental health, tobacco, drugs and alcohol, protective factors and sexual behavior questions.

Cost of Underage Drinking in North Carolina – In 2013, underage drinking cost the citizens of North Carolina $1.3 billion. These costs include medical care, work loss, and pain and suffering associated with the multiple problems resulting from the use of alcohol by youth. This translates to $1,437 per year for each youth in the state or $3.48 per drink consumed underage. Excluding pain and suffering from these costs, tangible costs of underage drinking including medical care, criminal justice, property damage, and loss of work in North Carolina totaled $502.00 million each year or $1.34 per drink. In contrast, a drink in North Carolina retails for $0.84. (PIRE, 2015)

  • The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) ( is an  organization that monitors the marketing practices of the alcohol industry to focus attention and action on industry practices that jeopardize the health and safety of America’s youth.
  • The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism ( of the National Institutes of Health is a source for a wide variety of research, particularly on the topic of underage drinking.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has established a clear vision for its work — a life in the community for everyone. To realize this vision, the Agency has sharply focused its mission on building resilience and facilitating recovery for people with or at risk for mental or substance use disorders. SAMHSA is gearing all of its resources — programs, policies and grants — toward that outcome.
  • Center for Science in the Public Interest, Alcohol Policies Project: Though no longer active, the Alcohol Policies Project was established to help focus attention on policy reforms to reduce the health and social consequences of using alcohol. Until 2010, the project has worked with thousands of organizations and individuals to promote a comprehensive, prevention-oriented policy strategy to change the role of alcohol in society. Helpful archived information on alcohol and alcohol policy is still housed at their site.
  • The Centers for Disease Control’s Community Guide on Preventing Excessive Alcohol Consumption is an excellent resource for individuals seeking information on public health approaches to preventing underage drinking. You can visit the CDC’s Community Guide at: