It’s more serious than most parents realize.

Many parents don’t realize that alcohol is connected to the issues they fear most for their kids. When a research study asked parents in Pennsylvania what issues worry them most, underage drinking was far off their radar. They mentioned drug use, violence and bullying more than anything else.1

But the reality is that alcohol is the substance most often abused by children and teens.2 And it can cause both short-term and long-term harm.

Short-term effects of drinking alcohol can include:

  • distorted vision, hearing and coordination
  • altered perceptions and emotions
  • nerve cell and brain damage
  • impaired decision-making, which can lead to risky behaviors like drug use and unsafe sex
  • school absence, poor or failing grades
  • aggressive behavior
  • lack of participation in activities and sports

Long-term effects of alcohol use can include:

  • addiction
  • cirrhosis and cancer of the liver
  • serious vitamin deficiencies
  • heart and central nervous system damage
  • memory loss
  • stomach ailments
  • alcohol poisoning

Children are at greater risk of harm.

Children’s bodies are still developing, and alcohol can affect healthy growth. Alcohol can cause permanent damage to organs like the liver, heart, and stomach as well as the central nervous system. That’s why the Know When. Know How.℠ campaign aims to prevent underage drinking.

The younger children start drinking, the more likely they are to have problems with alcohol as adults. Children who begin drinking at age 13 have a 45 percent chance of becoming alcohol dependent later in life. That’s a four times greater chance than children who do not.


1PLCB Underage Drinking Focus Groups, Summary of observations and recommendations from 8 focus groups across the state with Pennsylvania parents of children between the ages of 5 and 15, Center for Opinion Research, May 2017.

2Siqueira, L. VC Smith, Comm Subst Abuse, and Committee on Substance Abuse, “Binge Drinking,” Pediatrics 136, no. 3 (2015): E718-E726.

Illustration of girl reaching for alcohol bottles.

7 in 10 PA parents don’t keep the alcohol in their home secured.

85% of underage drinkers get their alcohol from their home or a friend’s.

Tip: Get to know your child’s friends and their parents. Find out how alcohol is kept secure in their home before your child spends time there.

Dear Parent

When talking about the harm alcohol can cause, remind your child that staying away from it will keep them safe.