Young People and Alcohol
UNDERAGE DRINKING IS WIDESPREAD IN THE U.S.
Approximately 9.7 million current drinkers in the United States are
between the ages of 12-20. Of these young drinkers, 18.7% in binge drinking
and 6% are heavy drinkers.
On average, young people begin drinking at 13.1 years of age.
By the time they are high school seniors, 80% have used alcohol and 62%
have been drunk.
Girls are beginning to drink at younger ages. In the 1960s, 7% of 10- to
14-year-old females used alcohol; by the early 1990ís, that figure had risen
Due to heavy or binge drinking, nearly one out of every five teenagers
(16%) has experienced "black outs," after which they could not remember what
happened the previous evening. 
Young people have easy access to alcohol. In alcohol purchase attempts
made by researchers across the U.S., buyers who appeared to be underage were
able to purchase alcohol with no questions asked at least 50% of the time.
AND THE CONSEQUENCES ARE DEVASTATING
Alcohol is a factor in the four leading causes of death among persons ages
10 to 24: (1) motor-vehicle crashes, (2) unintentional injuries, (3) homicide,
and (4) suicide. 
Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely
to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.
More than 67% of young people who start drinking before the age of 15 will
try an illicit drug. Children who drink are 7.5 times more likely to use any
illicit drug, more than 22 times more likely to use marijuana, and 50 times
more likely to use cocaine than children who never drank. 
Teens under 15 who have ever consumed alcohol are twice as likely to have
sex as those who have not. Nearly 4 in 10 (39%) sexually active teens who use
alcohol have had sexual intercourse with four or more individuals.
Underage drinking costs Americans nearly $53 billion annually. If this
cost were shared equally by each congressional district, the amount would
total more than $120 million per district. 
Researchers estimate that alcohol use is implicated in one to two-thirds
of sexual assault and acquaintance or "date" rape cases among teens and
college students. 
In 2000, 21% of 15- to 20-year-old drivers who were killed in crashes were
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