Underage Drinking and School and Campus Health

Learn about the use of alcohol in schools and universities, its impact on communities, and recommended preventive actions.

Alcohol use by individuals under age 21 is a major public health problem. Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among young people in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs. Each year an estimated:

  • 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.
  • 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol.
  • 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
  • 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

The 2007 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking emphasizes the important impact that schools and universities have on their students and recommends actions they can take.

Underage drinking, including binge drinking, is associated with reduced academic performance. Students who reported binge drinking were three times more likely than non-binge drinkers to report earning mostly Ds and Fs on their report cards.

Schools can:

  • Provide an environment that allows students to explore and develop their individual talents
  • Inform parents and students about the consequences of underage drinking
  • Implement evidence-based programs aimed at preventing underage drinking
  • Provide and promote venues where adolescents can gather with friends where alcohol is not available

Colleges and universities can:

  • Provide appealing, alcohol-free places for students to gather
  • Establish and enforce rules against underage alcohol use
  • Restrict the sale of alcoholic beverages on campus and at campus events
  • Educate parents, students, and faculty about the consequences of underage drinking on college campuses, including secondhand effects such as receiving poor grades or becoming the victim of an alcohol-related assault or accident
Last Updated: 09/20/2017