Alcohol use in adolescents (often called “underage drinking”) is widely recognized in many countries as a major public health problem. In the United States, where the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) is 21 years, youth drinking results in about 5000 deaths per year due to traffic crashes, homicides, suicides, and other causes such as falls, fires, and drowning. Reinforcing public concern, the younger the age when adolescents take the first drink (other than a sip), the more likely they are to develop alcohol dependence and suffer other alcohol-related problems.

Adolescent Drinking Patterns

The 2008 Monitoring the Future study, an annual survey of U.S. students, showed that the following percentages of students had ever consumed an alcoholic drink: 8th graders, 39% 10th graders, 58% and 12th graders, ...

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