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Long term underage consumption trends continue to decline according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).  From 2002 to 2012, past month consumption among underage persons decreased 16 percent proportionally, binge drinking declined 21% proportionally, and heavy drinking dropped 31% proportionally.  Also encouraging is the rising mean age at first use of alcohol among those who consumed alcohol for the first time this year – 17.6 years of age –  the longer children delay alcohol consumption, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with underage drinking.  

Further, while the industry remains vigilant and committed to not selling underage, social sources continue to be the largest source of alcohol for underage youth. Eighty-one percent of 12 to 20 year olds who reported consuming alcohol in the past month were with two or more people the last time they drank and 14% were with one other person.  The majority of these underage drinkers report drinking at someone else’s home (54%) or their own home (31%) on their last drinking occasion.  Nearly three out of four underage current drinkers reported they did not purchase the alcohol they consumed the last time they drank.  Unrelated persons 21 or older are identified as the leading source of alcohol for underage drinkers (37%); nearly one-quarter (23%) of youth cited parents, guardians, or other adult family members as the source of alcohol the last time drank, and 19% reported other underage persons provide the alcohol on their last drinking occasion.  Additional sources included taking it from home (6%), taking it from someone else’s home (3%), and getting is some other way (6%).

While the 2012 numbers are relatively consistent with the prevalence rates in 2011, the report showed a continuing positive trend in the reduction of underage consumption with past month, binge drinking, and heavy drinking rates among 12 to 20 year olds declining over the past decade.  Additionally from 2011 to 2012 there were notable declines in underage consumption prevalence rates including a decline in past year consumption among females and a statistically significant 4% decline in the lifetime consumption rate among 12 to 20 year old males.

With most students beginning a new school year, the declining trend in underage consumption rates is positive, but there remains much to be done.  Parents are the leading influence in their teens decision to drink or not drink alcohol, thus it is imperative they continue to discuss the dangers and consequences of underage drinking with their sons and daughters.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that provides national data on the use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs (including non-medical use of prescription drugs) and mental health in the United States among persons 12 and older.