Underage Drinking Prevention

In August 2012 the Washington State Substance Abuse Prevention and Mental Health Promotion Five-Year Strategic Plan was completed, and was updated in November 2017. Underage drinking is identified as one of the state priorities to address. The information below is to support and inform prevention professionals working on the individual or environmental level to improve effectiveness of prevention efforts.

Washington State's Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR) identifies reductions in underage drinking as its number one prevention priority. Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and are two and a half times more likely to become abusers of alcohol than those who begin drinking at age 21. Youth ages 12-20 who drink alcohol are more than twice as likely to be pathological drinkers than adult drinkers.


But there are significant challenges to continuation of these hopeful trends. Passage of Initiative 1183 in 2011 increased availability of spirit liquor across the state. Reports of thefts of spirit liquor from grocery stores and other new liquor vendors are widespread.


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