Southwest Counseling: Parents Who Host Lose The Most: Supplying alcohol to minors can cost you!

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The Problem

Underage drinking is a major public health concern with physical, social, and legal consequences. As the stats below show, it’s not uncommon in Sweetwater County.

According to the Wyoming Prevention Needs Assessment of Sweetwater County 10th graders in 2022:

  • 35.87% had tried alcohol in their lifetime.
  • 20.82% drank alcohol in the previous month.
  • 16.56% got their last drink from their parents.
  • 23.2% drank in their own home in the past year.
  • 18.7% drank at a friend’s house in the past year.

The Consequences

Health: Underage drinking can be fatal. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “Alcohol is a significant factor in the deaths of people younger than age 21 in the United States each year. This includes deaths from motor vehicle crashes, homicides, alcohol overdoses, falls, burns, drowning, and suicides.” Short of death, underage alcohol use also increases the risk of injuries and assault.

Addiction: The earlier one starts drinking, the greater their chance of developing an alcohol use disorder. According to NIAAA, drinking by age 15 makes you 3.5 times more likely to have an alcohol use disorder as an adult than those who wait until 21 to start drinking. Drinking alcohol at an early age is also associated with using other substances at early ages, increasing the chances of developing addictions to those substances as well.

Social: Underage drinking can lead to problems with school and work. It also interferes with brain development, resulting in difficulties with cognition and learning that may limit one’s financial and social success later in life.

Legal: Under Wyoming law, specifically 12-6-101(a), it is legal to furnish alcohol to your own children/wards, but not to any other minors. Supplying alcohol to or openly allowing minors to drink in your home is a misdemeanor punishable by fine and/or incarceration. Providing alcohol to your children or their friends can put them at increased risk for getting DUI, MIP, or Underage Consumption of Alcohol charges. Lastly, per Wyoming 12-8-301(c), you may also be held liable for damages caused by minors while they were intoxicated if you gave them the alcohol. That means if you give your child’s friend alcohol, and then he hits someone with his car while intoxicated, you could be on the hook.

The Bottom Line

Many parents supply minors with alcohol in the belief that by having them drink in their home, they are allowing them to experiment safely under adult supervision. The truth is, allowing underage drinking in your home increases the chances of negative health and legal outcomes for the minors, does not guarantee that they will always drink in a safe way, and puts you at risk for serious legal consequences.

It’s up to parents to model and enforce healthy habits for their children. Always consider the consequences before providing alcohol to minors, and remember: Parents Who Host Lose The Most.


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