Alcohol Policies and Adolescent Drinking Behaviors (Important!)

Is there a connection between alcohol policies and adolescent drinking behaviors? For example, do strict policies reduce heavy drinking? What about heavy episodic or so-called “binge” drinking?

Research Study

Researchers wanted to know. So they studied the matter among 15- and 16-year old youth in 40 European and North American countries. Data on drinking were from two sources. One was the Health Behavior in School-age Children survey. The other was the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs.


alcohol policies and adolescent drinkingThe researchers found higher prices and stronger alcohol controls to be associated with less weekly drinking. However, there was more drunkenness.

This isn’t surprising. In fact, it’s consistent with evidence from many sources. When alcohol is difficult to get, consumption levels tend to be lower. On the other hand, harmful drinking tends to be higher.

For example, during U.S. prohibition people tended to drink less often. However, when they had a chance to drink, they usually did so to excess. They wouldn’t go to a speakeasy to have a leisurely drink. To the contrary, they guzzled alcohol.

The researchers concluded that future studies should see if strict policies have any beneficial effect on drinking behaviors. Or if they instead increase binge drinking.

Resources: Alcohol Policies and Adolescent Drinking

Dry Counties Have Higher DWI Fatality Rates.

Edvin, D. and Harald, S. Underage Drinking. Examining and Preventing Youth Use of Alcohol. NY: Nova, 2010.

Marcovitz, H. Should the Drinking Age be Lowered? San Diego: ReferencePoint, 2011.

Marquis, N. Preventing and Reducing Underage Drinking. NY: Nova, 2009.

Piehl, N. Underage Drinking. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven, 2010. Juv.

Scherer, L. Underage Drinking. Rosen, 2016.

Shannon, J. Alcohol Information for Teens. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005.

Underage Drinking Problem Prevention.

Underage Drinking Problems: What Works.  


Gilligan, C., et al. Adolescent drinking patterns across countries: associations with alcohol policies. Alco and Alco, 2012, PMID: 22805348.

Note: This website is informational only. It makes no recommendation about alcohol or any other matter.