The legal drinking age in Massachusetts is 21 years old. However, there is a loophole in the law that allows parents or grandparents to furnish alcohol to underage people on private property. Even though this type of drinking is allowed in a home, there are still penalties if the underage drinker engages in certain activities.

Statistics suggest that a typical underage drinker consumes about $1,953 of alcohol per year. Adults who can legally consume alcohol have approximately 1.7 drinks per day while underage drinkers average around four drinks — which is a lot — in that same time frame.

Risks associated with underage drinking

Some people think that underage drinking is no big deal. But the fact is that property crime, violent crime, suicidality, teen pregnancy and serious medical problems can all be exacerbated by underage drinking.

Underage drinking costs the state around $1.4 billion per year. Much of that expense can be chalked up to pain and suffering. Even without this type of damage, underage drinking still costs the state around $499 million each year.

Lost work and medical costs also contribute to the cost. One issue, fetal alcohol syndrome in babies born to teen mothers, accounts for around $20 million per year. The cost of alcohol treatment for teens is over $63 million per year.

There is a direct link between early drinking and alcohol dependence. People who start consuming alcohol prior to age 15 are 2.5 times more likely to abuse alcohol and four times more likely to have alcohol dependency than people who wait until they are 21 to start drinking.

Legal issues underage drinkers face

One big problem for underage drinkers is that the legal blood alcohol concentration level for drivers under 21 is much lower than that for other drivers: just .02 percent. Many underage drinkers who drive are going to face legal troubles if they are pulled over. Facing criminal charges for underage drunk driving can lead to considerable fines, driver’s license suspensions and other penalties. High school and college students can also be subject to disciplinary action from their schools.

Addressing the issue of underage drinking is difficult. Some parents would rather their children consume alcohol around them — or simply ignore the consumption — but the problem grows when kids drink without appropriate supervision.

Young people facing criminal charges for underage drinking should seek a strong defense to stem the tide of complications a conviction can cause in their lives.