Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and contains ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Ethanol is the intoxicating ingredient in beer, wine and liquor, and is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars and starches. Alcohol is usually a liquid that is drunk. Its color and packaging vary widely, and types include beer, wine and liquor.

    A single drink is roughly defined as 12 oz of beer (~5% alcohol), 5 oz of wine (~12% alcohol) or 1.5 oz of liquor (~40% alcohol).

    Some slang terms you might hear for alcohol are booze, brew, juice or sauce. Many products that do not normally contain alcohol, like seltzer or fruit juice, are sold in “spiked” versions and may be referred to by a brand name (White Claw, TRULY).

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    A guide for families

    We break down the risks of underage drinking, why it appeals to young people and what you can do to protect your child from its harms.

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    Prevent underage drinking

    A young person’s brain is not fully developed until they reach their mid- to late 20s, and any drinking while the brain is still developing can be problematic. Regardless of age, alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment and coordination. It can also increase the incidence of aggressive or violent acts.

    Consuming large quantities in a short period of time — or binge drinking, which is defined as having 4-5 drinks on one occasion and is common among young people — can cause alcohol poisoning and even death.

    More than 16 million Americans misuse or are addicted to alcohol, which is a substance that is legal, widely available and normalized in our society. Prolonged, heavy use of alcohol can lead to addiction (known as alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism), liver and heart disease, and other health consequences such as a weakened immune system and increased risk of developing certain cancers.

    Alcohol: What Families Need to Know to Help Protect Young People

    You are your child’s greatest influence and health advocate. Wherever your child is at with regard to alcohol use, we're here to help.
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    Alcohol: What School Professionals Need to Know to Help Protect Young People

    Whether a child has not yet tried alcohol, has begun to drink or drinks regularly, this guide can help you help your students.
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    Alcohol: What Health Care Professionals Need to Know to Help Protect Young People

    This guide break down the risks of youth drinking, why it appeals to youth, and what you can to protect young people from its harms.
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    Frequent Questions & Common Misconceptions About Underage Drinking

    The majority of teens say their parents are the most important influence on their decisions about whether or not to drink.
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    What Parents Need to Know About College Binge Drinking

    Parents who communicate expectations against drinking means a lower chance of their child drinking excessively in college. Get tips on how to talk.
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    Address underage drinking

    Any underage drinking is a concern. Keep an eye out for these signs of alcohol use or intoxication, and read more on how to effectively address any concerns with your child.

    • Empty bottles, shot glasses, bottle openers
    • Water or soda bottles (or other containers) used to conceal liquor
    • Smell of alcohol on the breath
    • Slurred speech
    • Lack of coordination
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Hangovers

    How to Address Alcohol and Underage Drinking

    What do you do, and what can you say if your child has been caught drinking?
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    Prepare to Take Action if You Suspect Teen or Young Adult Drug Use

    Is your child using drugs? Use these tips to prepare for the conversation ahead, and lay the foundation for more positive outcomes.
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    Last Updated

    May 2021