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Underage Drinking Stats

Alcohol is the drug of choice for America’s teens and young adults.

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Caron Treatment Centers accepts patients aged 13 years or older. For more information on services available to those 12 and under, please learn more about Caron's Student Assistance Program.

Prevalence of underage drinking.

Current underage drinking stats continue to prove that teen alcohol abuse is major cause for concern in the United States. In fact, according to a survey entitled Monitoring the Future (MTF), four in 10 are current drinkers. More specifically, they found that three-fourths of all 12th graders, over two-thirds of 10th graders and nearly two in every five 8th graders have consumed alcohol. With over 10.8 million underage drinkers in the United States, alcohol is the “drug of choice” for America’s youth. Teens consume more alcohol than cigarettes and marijuana combined.

Teen Binge Drinking

Even more concerning is the fact that underage drinkers tend to cluster their drinking into intense episodes, commonly known as binge drinking. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) found that one quarter of high school students participated in underage binge drinking on at least one day in the past 30 days. More specifically, MTF’s underage drinking stats indicate that 11% of 8th graders, 22% of 10th graders and 29% of 12th graders had engaged in binge drinking within two weeks of the survey. Binge drinking, which is defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within a two-hour period, can be extremely dangerous, particularly for inexperienced drinkers. 

Effects of underage drinking.

Underage drinking is linked to greater risk of developing future alcohol problems. According to underage drinking stats from the NIAAA’s 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), those who begin drinking in their early teens have a higher risk of developing alcohol dependence sometime in their lives. Furthermore, their dependence often develops more quickly and at younger ages than those who do not drink in their early teens. [1] Additionally, high school students who use alcohol or other drugs are five times more likely to drop out of school or believe good grades are unimportant than students who do not use drugs and alcohol. [2]

Underage drinking is also linked to higher risk of developing future alcohol and mental health problems. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), those who begin drinking in their early teens are more likely to develop alcohol dependence later in life. The Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study found that nearly half of all college students are binge drinkers and 16% are frequent binge drinkers. 

Fatalities caused by underage drinking.

Every year, approximately 5,000 people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking. Most of these deaths (1,900) result from drunk driving, 1,600 result from homicides, 300 result from suicides and remaining deaths result from related injuries and accidents.[3]

[1] Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Volume 160, pages 739-746.    

[3] Alcohol Alert No. 67, Underage Drinking. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/Pages/default.aspx