National Survey on Drug Use and Health

According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 9.3 million Americans between ages 12-20 report current alcohol consumption; this represents 24% of this age group for whom alcohol consumption is illegal.

Over the past decade, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health surveys from 2002 to 2012 have shown a decline in the prevalence rates of current, binge, and heavy alcohol consumption among 12 to 20 year olds.  Past month consumption among 12 to 20 year olds have declined proportionally 16 percent from 29% in 2002 to 24% in 2012.  Underage binge drinking rates decreased 21 percent proportionally from 19% to 15%, while heavy drinking (five or more drinks on the same occasion on 5 or more days in the past 30 days) also decreased among 12 to 20 year olds during this time declining 31 percent proportionally from 6% in 2002 to 4% in 2012.  (Source: SAMHSA, 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2013)

Among older age groups, the prevalence of current alcohol consumption decreases with increasing age, however, among America’s youth the rate of underage drinking increases with increasing age according to the 2012 survey, ranging from 1% at age 12 to 3% at age 13, 9% at age 14, 14% at age 15, 21% at age 16, 29% at age 17, 40% at age 18, 45% at age 19, and 53% at age 20. (Source: SAMHSA, 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2013)

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Monitoring the Future

The 2013 Monitoring the Future survey revealed underage drinking among teens continued its long-term decline, with prevalence rates reaching the lowest levels since the survey began measuring consumption levels. 

Over the past five years, from 2008 to 2013, significant declines in alcohol consumption among all three grade levels surveyed on most prevalence measures have been observed – lifetime, annual, 30-day, daily, and binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row in the last two weeks).  In 2013, statistically significant reductions in consumption were noted in past month consumption among 12th graders, and binge drinking among 10th graders. 

The latest edition of the survey revealed, in 2013, 12th graders had the lowest recorded level of underage drinking since the inception of the Monitoring the Future Study in 1975 and that 8th and 10th graders also experienced the lowest levels since 1991 when they were added to the study sample.

Seven out of ten (72%) of eighth grade students, 48% of tenth graders, and 32% of twelfth graders report they have never drank alcohol.  These figures represent a decline in lifetime alcohol consumption among students in all three grade levels.

Likewise, there was a decline in the annual rate of underage drinking among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. Annual consumption rates among all three grade levels declined to record low levels decreasing 1.5%, 1.4%, and 1.5% proportionally from 2012 to 2013.

  • The annual rate of consumption among 8th graders was 22%.
  • Among 10th graders 47% reported consuming alcohol in the past year.
  • The prevalence rate of annual consumption was 62% for 12th graders.

Past month consumption rates have been decreasing since the MTF survey has been collecting data for all three grade levels.  After a slight increase among tenth and twelfth graders in 2012, past month consumption rates reached record low levels among all students in 2013.  From 2012 to 2013 the rate of past month consumption showed a statistically significant decrease among high school seniors, down 2.3 percent. 

  • One in ten (10%) of 8th graders report consuming alcohol in the past month, down 59% proportionally from 26% in 1991.
  • Tenth graders’ reported monthly consumption rate is down from 43% in 1991 to 26% in 2013.
  • Twelfth graders’ 30-day consumption rate of 39% is down 27% proportionally from 54% in 1991.

Click here to see more Underage Drinking Charts.

Similarly, the percentage of students in all three grade levels who said they had been drunk in the month prior to the survey decreased with a statistically significant decrease noted among 10thh graders from 2012 to 2013.

  • One in twenty students (4%) in 8th grade reported they had been drunk in the past 30-days in 2013.
  • Reaching an historic low level, 13% of 10th graders reported they had been drunk in the past 30-days. 
  • The prevalence rate of being drunk in the past 30-days was 26% among 12th graders.

Reported incidents of binge drinking, that is having five or more drinks in a row in the last two weeks, also declined among all grades, including a statistically significant decrease among 10th graders in 2013 reaching a new record low level; 5% of 8th graders and 22% of high school seniors reported binge drinking in the past two weeks.  The prevalence rate of binge drinking has been reduced by more than half among 8th graders, more than one-third among 10th graders, and by more than one-quarter among 12th graders from 1991 to 2013.

Since the inception of The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility in 1991 Monitoring the Future has reported notable declines in all of the prevalence rates of underage drinking among students in eighth, tenth and twelfth grades.  Throughout this time, the availability of alcohol to underage youth has continued to decline as reported in the 2013 Monitoring the Future study.  Additionally in 2013, students reported an increase in their disapproval of binge drinking among peers further indicating a shift in underage drinking behaviors and attitudes.