Official Government Website

Underage Drinking

Drug Information

Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is an intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches. Alcohol affects every organ in the body. It is a central nervous system depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. Alcohol is metabolized in the liver by enzymes. However, the liver can only metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, leaving the excess alcohol to circulate throughout the body. The intensity of the effect of alcohol on the body is directly related to the amount consumed.

According to the Surgeon General’s Report, alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States.

The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days

  • 30% drank some amount of alcohol.
  • 14% binge drank.
  • 6% drove after drinking alcohol.
  • 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and NIDA Teens for more information regarding Underage Drinking.

Physical Signs

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred Speech
  • Headaches
  • Impaired Judgment
  • Blackouts

Other Signs

  • Decreased involvement in extracurricular activities
  • Loss of interest in school, family, or friends
  • Preoccupation with drinking
  • Violent Behavior
  • Erratic Behavior

Health Consequences

  • Memory Loss
  • Liver Disease
  • Thiamine Deficiency
  • Brain Damage
  • Addiction
  • Immune System Obstruction


“Underage Drinking” refers to alcohol consumption by anyone under the age of 21 in Idaho. It is illegal for any person under twenty-one years of age to purchase, attempt to purchase, or otherwise consume or possess any alcoholic beverage, including distilled spirits, beer or wine. Any minor who purchases, attempts to purchase, consumes or possesses any alcoholic beverage shall be guilty of an infraction upon first violation and guilty of a misdemeanor upon subsequent conviction. Providing alcohol to minors is also prohibited with no exceptions.

Recent Idaho Legislation

Alcohol Age Violations

2016: House Bill No. 494

Reclassifies a first offense for under age alcohol possession or consumption from a misdemeanor to an infraction. The purpose behind the reclassification is to better align punishment with crimes committed and save costs related to public defense, while maintaining penalties adequate for deterrence and enforcement. Enacted April 5, 2016.

Limited Use Immunity

2016: House Bill No. 521

Adds section 23-604A, providing limited use immunity from a misdemeanor Minor in Consumption or Possession of alcohol charge for a minor that needs or seeks emergency medical help on behalf of themselves or another. Enacted April 5, 2016.


Reducing underage drinking will require community-based efforts to monitor the activities of youth and decrease youth access to alcohol. Prevention strategies for the prevention of underage drinking include enforcement of minimum legal drinking age laws, national media campaigns targeting youth and adults, increasing alcohol excise taxes, reducing youth exposure to alcohol advertising, and development of comprehensive community-based programs.

Avoid Unsupervised After-School Time

Students who participate in 1 or more days of supervised after-school activities are less likely to have every used alcohol. After-school activities provide:

  1. Supervision by positive adult role models
  2. Youth leadership opportunities
  3. Incorporation of skills building
  4. A piece of a comprehensive prevention plan

Understand Risk and Protective Factors

Addressing risk factors early and paying careful attention to children at higher risk can reduce that child’s likelihood of a future problem. This is a simplified list of some overall risk factors. Learn more at

  1. Family history of substance use disorders
  2. Mental health or behavioral issues
  3. Trauma
  4. Impulse control problems

Protective factors may reduce the risk of youth engaging in substance use. Increasing protective factors in addition to reducing risk factors can be more effective in preventing substance use.

  1. Ability to make friends and get along with others
  2. Reliable support and discipline from caregivers
  3. Mastery of academic skills (math, reading, writing)
  4. School Engagement

These are simplified lists of some overall risk and protective factors. Learn more at

Talk to Youth About Underage Drinking

Research shows that parents are the leading influence on their child’s decisions about alcohol. Here are a few resources for getting the conversation started:

ver: 3.5.2 | last updated: