Underage drinking is a serious public health problem in the United States. Alcohol is the most widely used substance among America’s youth, and drinking by young people poses enormous health and safety risks.
The consequences of underage drinking can affect everyone—regardless of age or drinking status.
Either directly or indirectly, we all feel the effects of the aggressive behavior, property damage, injuries, violence, and deaths that can result from underage drinking. This is not simply a problem for some families—it is a nationwide concern.
Many young people drink alcohol.
- In 2019, about 24.6 percent of 14- to 15-year-olds reported having at least 1 drink.1
- In 2019, 7.0 million young people ages 12 to 20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month.2
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How much is a drink?
In the United States, a standard drink is defined as any beverage containing 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol (also known as an alcoholic drink-equivalent), which is found in:
- 12 ounces of beer with about 5 percent alcohol content
- 5 ounces of wine with about 12 percent alcohol content
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits with about 40 percent alcohol content
The percentage of pure alcohol, expressed here as alcohol by volume (alc/vol), varies within and across beverage types. Although the standard drink amounts are helpful for following health guidelines, they may not reflect customary serving sizes. A large cup of beer, an overpoured glass of wine, or a single mixed drink could contain much more alcohol than a standard drink.