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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.

Signs and Symptoms

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


Future Consequences:

Youth who Drink Alcohol are More Likely to Experience:

  • School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
  • Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
  • Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
  • Physical and sexual assault.
  • Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
  • Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
  • Memory problems.
  • Abuse of other drugs.
  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
  • Death from alcohol poisoning.


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

Position Statements

Medical Organizations


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

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:

The Idaho Office of Drug Policy leads Idaho’s substance abuse policy and prevention efforts by developing and implementing strategic action plans and collaborative partnerships to reduce drug use and related crime,
thereby improving the health and safety of all Idahoans.

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