National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism http//
Skip Navigation Advanced Search Tips
    Publications         Research Information         Resources         News | Events         FAQs         About NIAAA     Text size Small Size Default Text Large Text
View a printer-friendly version of this page  Printer-Friendly Version
Underage Drinking Research Initiative

Underage Drinking Research Initiative



Steering Committee Roster

The Surgeon General's Call to Action 
to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking

Print and Multimedia Resources
Statistics on Underage Drinking Other Resources
NIAAA Interdisciplinary Team

Selected Research Literature

Research Findings on Underage Drinking
and the Minimum Legal Drinking Age

…to the Website of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's Underage Drinking Research Initiative. This initiative is an undertaking born of the convergence of recent scientific advances and the increased public concern about the seriousness of this longstanding societal problem.

Underage drinking presents an enormous public health issue. Alcohol is the drug of choice among children and adolescents. Annually, about 5,000 youth under age 21 die from motor vehicle crashes, other unintentional injuries, and homicides and suicides that involve underage drinking. As the lead federal agency for supporting and conducting basic and applied research on alcohol problems, NIAAA is spearheading this initiative to intensify research, evaluation, and outreach efforts regarding underage drinking.

Advances in scientific research have helped to shed light on several important aspects of this problem, and through ongoing and planned studies we will continue to learn about effective prevention and treatment options. At the same time, however, underage drinking rates have remained constant - and unacceptably high - for about a decade. Clearly, more work remains on all aspects of this problem, a need acknowledged by the 2007 Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking and by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in its 2004 report on underage drinking. As an integral tool in NIAAA's efforts to enhance the scientific understanding of underage drinking, this Web site is designed to provide information on:

  • important new research on underage drinking
  • the most current national statistics
  • links to other federal government underage drinking prevention resources
  • updates on the new Steering Committee for the initiative

The Website is a "work-in-progress" -- please check back frequently for updates. Your comments, questions, or suggestions are welcome. Post your feedback to our Underage Drinking Research Webmaster.


         Each year, approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking; this includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 as a result of homicides, 300 from suicide, as well as hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings (For references, see NIAAA’s publication Alcohol Alert No. 67, Underage Drinking.


        Drinking continues to be widespread among adolescents, as shown by nationwide surveys as well as studies in smaller populations. According to an annual survey of U.S. youth, three-fourths of 12th graders, more than two-thirds of 10th graders, and about two in every five 8th graders have consumed alcohol. The survey is titled Monitoring the Future (MTF) and can be found online at


        When youth drink they tend to drink intensively, often consuming four to five drinks at one time. MTF data show that 11 percent of 8th graders, 22 percent of 10th graders, and 29 percent of 12th graders had engaged in heavy episodic, or binge, drinking within the past two weeks. The NIAAA defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration [BAC] to 0.08 grams percent or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in about 2 hours.)


        Data from NIAAA’s 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a survey of 43,000 U.S. adults, showed that early alcohol use, independent of other risk factors, may contribute to the risk of developing future alcohol problems. Those who began drinking in their early teens were at greater risk of developing alcohol dependence at some point in their lives, and they were also at greater risk of developing dependence more quickly and at younger ages. The findings were reported in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Volume 160, pages 739-746.   


The team's mission is to support research that will provide a more complete and integrated scientific understanding of the environmental, biobehavioral, and genetic factors that promote initiation, maintenance, and acceleration of alcohol use among youth, as well as factors that influence the progression to harmful use, abuse, and dependence. Placing the determinants of drinking within a developmental context is a necessary first step to developing effective new approaches to reducing underage drinking.

The following NIAAA staff serve on the team:

Team Chair

Vivian Faden, Ph.D.

Team Members

The Honorable Linda Chezem
John Bowersox
Fred Donodeo
Roger Hartman
Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., M.P.H.
Cherry Lowman, Ph.D.
Margaret Mattson, Ph.D.
Diane Miller
Howard Moss, M.D.
Patricia Powell, Ph.D.
Gregory Roa
Beverly Ruffin
Marieta Shirley, Ph.D.
Dennis Twombly, Ph.D.
Ellen Witt, Ph.D.


NIAAA has convened an expert panel to help stimulate research on underage drinking. The panel consists of experts in adolescent development, child health, brain imaging, genetics, neuroscience, prevention research, and other research fields, as well as individuals with public policy and communications expertise.

This group of experts works closely with members of NIAAA's Interdisciplinary Team on Underage Drinking Treatment and Prevention Research.

The mission of the Steering Committee is to advise NIAAA on future research to improve the prevention and treatment of underage drinking.


Adrian Angold
Duke University
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Richard Bonnie, L.L.B.
John S. Battle Professor of Law
Director, University of Virginia Institute
of Law Psychiatry and Public Policy
University of Virginia School of Law

Jane Brown, Ph.D.
James L. Knight Professor of Journalism/
Mass Communication
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Sandra A. Brown, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
University of California, San Diego

Ronald E. Dahl, M.D.
Staunton Professor of Psychiatry and
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
University of Pittsburg

Thomas J. Dishion, Ph.D.
Founder and Director of Research
Child and Family Center
University of Oregon

John E. Donovan, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
University of Pittsburgh School of

Cindy L. Ehlers, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
The Scripps Research Institute

Kendel Ehrlich, J.D.
Former First Lady of Maryland
Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free

Mimi Fleury
The Community of Concern

Nancy Freudenthal, J.D.
First Lady of Wyoming
Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free

Jay Giedd, M.D.
Chief of the Unit on Brain Imaging
Child Psychiatry Branch
National Institute of Mental Health

Mark S. Goldman, Ph.D.
(Ex-Officio Member)
Distinguished Research Professor
Director, Alcohol and Substance Use
Research Institute
Department of Psychology
University of South Florida

David Goldman, M.D.
Laboratory of Neurogenetics
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism

Jennifer Lerner, Ph.D.
Department of Social & Decision
Carnegie Mellon University

Christopher S. Martin, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Ann S. Masten, Ph.D.
Director, Institute of Child Development
University of Minnesota Matthew McGue, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
University of Minnesota

Frank Middleton, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and
Assistant Professor of Biomedical
Sciences Program
State University of New York Upstate

Stacia A. Murphy
President, National Council on Alcoholism
and Drug Dependence, Inc.

Daniel Pine, M.D.
Chief, Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience and
Chief of Child and Adolescent Research
Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program
National Institute of Mental Health

Sir Michael Rutter M.D., F.R.S.
Professor of Developmental Psychopathology
Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre
Institute of Psychiatry, London

John E. Schulenberg, Ph.D.
Institute for Social Research
Center for Human Growth and Development
University of Michigan Institute for Social Research

Kenneth J. Sher, Ph.D.
Department of Psychological Studies
University of Missouri

Linda Spear, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Psychology
Chair of Department of Psychology
Binghamton University/State University of New York

Susan F. Tapert, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry
University of California San Diego

Michael Windle, Ph.D.
Director, Center for the Advancement of Youth Health
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Robert A. Zucker, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology
Director, Addiction Research Center
University of Michigan


NIAAA provides a number of print and multimedia resources for parents, teachers, and young people. Click the titles below to access these resources.

Print Publications

Multimedia Resources

  • "The Party's Over" -- public service announcements developed as part of NIAAA's long-term commitment to reducing the serious, and often fatal, consequences of alcohol use in young people

    - View the Television PSAs online

    o [30 seconds]
    o [
    60 seconds]

    - Read the Storyboard  

    - Hear the Radio PSAs


The following links feature additional data and resources on underage drinking from some of the many partners that NIAAA collaborates with in supporting research, prevention, and outreach initiatives.

NIAAA-Sponsored Sites

  • The Cool Spot - an interactive site designed for young people, featuring FAQs, statistics, and other information.
  • The Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free - a unique coalition of Governors' spouses, Federal agencies, and public and private organizations, the leadership is an initiative to prevent the use of alcohol by children ages 9 to 15.
  • NIAAA's Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) - an online resource that provides detailed information on a wide variety of alcohol-related policies in the United States at both State and Federal levels. It features compilations and analyses of alcohol-related statutes and regulations. Designed primarily as a tool for researchers, APIS simplifies the process of ascertaining the state of the law for studies on the effects and effectiveness of alcohol-related policies.  A special Highlight on Underage Drinking page offers a single point of access to policy topics with particular relevance to underage drinking.
  • NIAAA's - a interactive site designed for college students, parents, RAs, and college administrators featuring research publications, fact sheets, news and other links.

Reports and Surveys

  • Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking [PDF - 1MB]
  • A Guide to Action for Communities [PDF - 974KB]
  • A Guide to Action for Educators [PDF - 1.08MB]
  • A Guide to Action for Families [PDF - 900KB]
  • Trends in Underage Drinking in the United States, 1991-2003 - Surveillance Report #74 [pdf] -- Presents trends in underage drinking by youth ages 12-20 years. This is the first issue of a new surveillance report on underage drinking. Data were obtained from three separate sources, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Monitoring the Future survey, and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The report presents trends for prevalence of alcohol consumption, drinking patterns, alcohol-related attitudes, and alcohol-related risk behaviors.
  • Underage Drinking - Alcohol Alert No. 67 -- This bulletin for health professionals summarize research on why adolescents drink; describes the health risks of underage drinking; provides an overview on preventing underage drinking within a developmental framework; and highlights selected prevention/intervention programs showing promise.
  • Alcohol and Development in Youth-A Multidisciplinary Overview, Alcohol Research & Health, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2004/2005 -- This issue of NIAAA's peer-reviewed journal summarizes research that brings a developmental perspective to bear upon the problem of underage drinking. Articles in this issue include the following: The Scope of the Problem; Developmental Issues in Underage Drinking Research; The Effects of Alcohol on Physiological Processes and Biological Development; Genetics, Pharmacokinetics, and Neurobiology of Adolescent Alcohol Use; Psychosocial Processes and Mechanisms of Risk and Protection; Environmental and Contextual Considerations; and Interventions for Alcohol Use and Alcohol Use Disorders in Youth.
  • Underage Drinking: A Major Public Health Challenge - Alcohol Alert No. 59 -- an overview of research findings and statistics on underage drinking, part of NIAAA's Alcohol Alert series for research and health professionals.
  • Reducing Underage Drinking - A Collective Responsibility -- a report issued in 2003 by the Institute of Medicine/National Academies of Science.
  • Monitoring the Future -- an ongoing study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) that examines the behaviors, attitudes, and values of young Americans, including 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students.
  • National Survey on Drug Use & Health -- a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on the prevalence, patterns, and consequences of drug and alcohol use and abuse in the general U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population, age 12 and older.
  • YRBSS: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System -- a program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which surveys students in grades 9-12.

Other Federal Government Sites


Alcohol and Development in Youth -- A Multidisciplinary Overview. Alcohol Research & Health: Volume 28, Number 3, 2004/2005.


Austin EW, Chen MJ, Grube JW (2006). How does alcohol advertising influence underage drinking? the role of desirability, identifiction and skepticism. J Adolesc Health. 38(4):376-84.


Brown SA, Tapert SF. (2004). Adolescence and the trajectory of alcohol use: basic to clinical studies. Ann N Y Acad Sci Jun;1021:234-44.

Brown SA, Tapert SF, Granholm E, Delis DC (2000). Neurocognitive functioning of adolescents: effects of protracted alcohol use. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 24:164-71.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Available online: 2004.

Chung T, Maisto SA (2006). Relapse to alcohol and other drug use in treated adolescents: review and reconsideration of relapse as a change point in clinical course. Clin Psychol Rev 26(2):149-61.

De Bellis MD, Narasimhan A, Thatcher DL, Keshavan MS, Soloff P, Clark DB. (2005). Prefrontal cortex, thalamus, and cerebellar volumes in adolescents and young adults with adolescent-onset alcohol use disorders and comorbid mental disorders. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 29(9):1590-600.

Faden, VB, Fay, MP. (2004). Trends in drinking among Americans age 18 and younger: 1975-2002. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 28:1388-95.

Gogtay N, Giedd JN, Lusk L, Hayashi KM, Greenstein D, Vaituzis AC, Nugent TF 3rd, Herman DH, Clasen LS, Toga AW, Rapoport JL, Thompson PM. (2004). Dynamic mapping of human cortical development during childhood through early adulthood. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 25;101(21):8174-9.


Hingson RW, Heeren T, Winter MR. (2006) Age at drinking onset and alcohol dependence: age at onset, duration, and severity. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. l;160(7):739-46.


Hingson R, Heeren T, Winter M, Wechsler H. (2005). Magnitude of alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18-24: changes from 1998 to 2001. Annu Rev Public Health 26:259-79.

Hingson, R and Kenkel, D. Social, Health, and Economic Consequences of Underage Drinking. In National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility, Background Papers [CD-ROM]. Committee on Developing a Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press,  2004.

Hingson, RW, Heeren T, Zakocs RC, Kopstein A, Wechsler H. (2002). Magnitude of alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18-24. J Stud Alcohol 2002 Mar; 63(2):136-44.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2003). Traffic Safety Facts 2002: Alcohol. U.S. Department of Transportation, DOT HS 809 606.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2008).  Underage Drinking: Understanding and Reducing Risk in the Context of Human Development.  Pediatrics 2008;121: Issue Supplement.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2002).
A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges. National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services.

Sheffield FD, Darkes J, Del Boca FK, Goldman MS (2005). Binge drinking and alcohol-related probmes among community college students: implications for prevention policy. J Am Coll Health 54(3):137-41.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2003). Results from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings. Office of Applied Studies, NHSDA Series H-22, DHHS Publication No. SMA 03-3836. Rockville, MD.

Tapert SF, Cheung EH, Brown GG, Frank LR, Paulus MP, Schweinsburg AD, Meloy MJ, Brown SA. (2003). Neural response to alcohol stimuli in adolescents with alcohol use disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry 60(7):727-35.


Varlinskaya EI, Spear LP (2006). Differences in the social consequences of ethanol emerge during the course of adolescence in rats: social facilitation, social inhibition, and anxiolysis. Dev Psychobiol 48(2):146-61.


Volkow N, Li TK. (2005).  The neuroscience of addiction. Nat Neurosci 8(11):1429-30. (No abstract available.)


Volkow ND, Li TK. (2005) Drugs and alcohol: treating and preventing abuse, addiction and their medical consequences.  Pharmacol Ther 108(1):3-17.


White AM, Swartzwelder HS. (2005) Age-related effects of alcohol on memory and memory-related brain function in adolescents and adults. Recent Dev Alcohol 17:161-76.


Zeigler DW, Wang CC, Yoast RA, Dickinson BD, McCaffree MA, Robinowitz CB, Sterling ML; Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association. (2005). The neurocognitive effects of alcohol on adolescents and college students. Prev Med 40(1):23-32.


Zucker RA, Wong MM, Clark DB, Leonard KE, Schulenberg JE, Cornelius JR, Fitzgerald HE, Hornish GG, Merline A, Nigg JT, O'Malley PM, Puttler LI (2006). Predicting risky drinking outcomes longitudinally: what kind of advance notice can we get? Alcohol Clin Exp Res 30(2):243-52.







Updated: May  2008


Whats New

Feature of the Month


NIAAA Sponsored Sites

N I H logo
H H S logo - Government Made Easy