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Alcohol's Effects on Health

Research-based information on drinking and its impact.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Parents—Talk With Your High School Grads About Celebrating Safely


Before your high school graduate celebrates, talk with them about keeping events alcohol free. It may save a life!

No amount of underage drinking is safe. And we know that underage drinking can lead to consuming too much alcohol, which may result in poor decisions, injuries, alcohol overdose, and possibly death.

834,000 young people ages 12-17 engage in binge drinking (2022 NSDUH). 753,000 young people ages 12-17 have alcohol use disorder (2022 NSDUH). 1,345 young people under age 21 died in 2022 from alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.

It’s About Your Teen

A teenager’s brain is still developing, and it is very sensitive to alcohol’s effects on judgment and decision-making. Tragedies can—and do—happen, so underage drinking should not be a part of any end-of-year celebration.

The Effects of Alcohol Can Be Deceptive

If you are asked to explain the reasons behind your rules, you can describe the effects of alcohol on the human body.

When people drink alcohol, they may temporarily feel elated and happy, but they should not be fooled. As blood alcohol level rises, the effects on the body—and the potential risks—multiply. For example:

  • Inhibitions and memory become affected, so people may say and do things that they will regret later and possibly not remember doing at all.
  • Decision-making skills are affected, so people may be at greater risk for driving under the influence—and risking an alcohol-related traffic crash—or making unsafe decisions about sex.
  • Aggression can increase, potentially leading to everything from verbal abuse to physical fights.
  • Coordination and physical control are also impacted. When drinking leads to loss of balance, slurred speech, and blurred vision, even normal activities can become more dangerous.
  • Consuming a dangerously high amount of alcohol can also lead to alcohol overdose and death. When people drink too much, they may eventually pass out (lose consciousness). Reflexes like gagging and breathing can be suppressed. That means people who have had too much alcohol could vomit and choke, or just stop breathing completely. The risk of an overdose can increase if alcohol is consumed while taking opioids or sedative hypnotics, such as sleep and anti-anxiety medications. Combining these medications with alcohol can be dangerous and life-threatening.

Think About It!

Drinking to celebrate graduation can result in vandalism, arrests, sexual assaults, injuries and trips to the emergency room, alcohol-related traffic crashes, and worse. Drinking by teens can put them—and their friends—in real danger. Ask them to consider this question: Is that any way to celebrate?

Talk With Your Graduate

It is critical to talk with your graduate because research shows that parents do make a difference. By serving as a positive role model, talking with other parents and your teens, supervising parties to make sure no alcohol is served, and supporting alcohol-free school celebrations, you can help prevent a life-changing mistake.


Tell your graduate to play it safe and party right—and alcohol-free—at graduation, because a well-deserved celebration shouldn’t end in tragedy.

A Word About Alcohol Overdose

Thousands of students are transported to the emergency department each year for alcohol overdose, which occurs when high levels of alcohol suppress the nervous and respiratory systems. Signs of this dangerous condition can include:

  • Slow or irregular breathing

  • Vomiting

  • Mental confusion, stupor, loss of consciousness, or coma

  • Hypothermia or low body temperature, bluish or pale skin

An alcohol overdose can lead to permanent brain damage or death, so a person showing any of these signs requires immediate medical attention. If you or your graduate notices any of these signs, don’t wait. Call 911 if you suspect an alcohol overdose.

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