The legal age to drink alcohol in California is 21. This is based on the fact that a young person’s brain is undergoing rapid growth and changes well into adulthood.

Using alcohol during this developmental period can actually rewire the brain for addiction. Research shows that when teens start drinking alcohol at a young age, they are more likely to continue the habit into adulthood. In fact, teens who begin drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to develop a problem with alcohol later in life than those who begin drinking after age 21.

There are many reasons why teens drink, including the social pressure to fit in, the idea that most of their friends are drinking, or because they simply don’t realize how harmful it can be to their developing brain and body.

Even a Little Is Too Much

Because parents want the best for their kids, we worry about them a lot. We want them to do well in school, feel a sense of self-worth and, most importantly, be healthy. Then why do some think it’s just an innocent rite of passage for teens to experiment with alcohol?

The age limit for alcohol is based on research that a young person’s body cannot cope with alcohol the same way an adult’s body can.

Teens respond to alcohol twice as quickly as adults and they have trouble knowing when to stop. Wanting to fit in, teens often drink to get drunk – which can have many harmful consequences.


Alcohol disrupts sleep. Alcohol can interfere with sleep patterns by reducing time spent in deep, restful sleep.

Alcohol is a diuretic causing the body to lose important vitamins and minerals required for athletic performance.

Alcohol disrupts the muscle-building process as alcohol is metabolized first, pushing aside other nutrients needed for muscle recovery.

Alcohol spikes the production of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, which impairs thinking, raises blood pressure, decreases bone density and muscle tissue, and increases abdominal fat.


Underage drinking is not a big deal. There’s no reason to worry.
The age limit for alcohol is based on research that shows that young people react differently to alcohol. Teens get drunk twice as quickly as adults, and they have more trouble knowing when to stop. Drinking even a small amount can cloud your judgment and may cause you to put yourself in a risky situation where you or someone else gets hurt. I don’t want this for you.
I only drink once in a while. What’s the big deal?
Thank you for your honesty. I appreciate that you can be open with me about this. Right now, your brain is in the middle of a really important growth phase. Drinking during this time can actually interfere with this process and make you more prone to addiction. In fact, research shows that taking your first drink in your early teens puts you at a much greater risk of developing a serious problem with alcohol or other drugs later in life.
I know a lot of people who drink and they seem to be fine.
I am hoping you will make your own choice and I am here to help you with that. According to schoolwide data, most teens in South Orange County don’t drink or use drugs. It’s a good thing because alcohol can cause permanent damage to your brain, particularly as it relates to memory, motor skills, and coordination. It is a leading factor in sexual assaults. And it is a factor in the three leading causes of teen deaths, which are car accidents, homicide, and suicide. I am not saying this to scare you. I want you to have the facts about alcohol’s effects.
Did you drink/smoke when you were young?

When I was young, we didn’t know nearly as much about the risks involved. We now have more research showing how harmful it is to drink and smoke during the teen years when your brain is still developing.