It is illegal for teens to buy and consume alcohol, as the legal drinking age is set at 21. However, studies show that underage drinkers from 12 years old to 20 years old actually drink around 11 percent of the country's alcohol on an annual basis.
Why does this happen? Why do teens knowingly break the law? Below are a few potential contributing factors:
- Peer pressure. Teens want to fit into their social scene. They will often do what everyone else is doing or give in to peer pressure in order to be accepted.
- Alcohol is fairly easy to get, as far as illegal drugs are concerned. Most teens know someone who can get alcohol, whether it is an older friend, a parent or an older sibling.
- Alcohol is inexpensive. Even on a limited income, teens can often afford to drink. When they can't afford other forms of entertainment, they may turn to drinking.
- Teens lack the impulse control that they'll develop as adults, and so they take risks frequently. Brain development is not complete until a person is in their mid-20s.
- Teens see adults drink alcohol, so many of them do not think of it as an illegal, dangerous substance, the way they would think about other drugs. Even when adults are legally drinking, this can still desensitize teens and normalize drinking in their worldview.
No matter why it happens, underage drinking is still illegal, as is the possession of alcohol. The charges are nothing to take lightly, and they can impact a person's entire future. It is very important for teens and their parents to know the penalties for these charges and to understand their legal rights.