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

According to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Study underage alcohol consumption among the nation’s youth continued its long-term decline, with notable decreases in all alcohol consumption prevalence rates among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders.  The survey data, which is an indicator of the success and progress made to eliminate underage consumption, reports consumption rates are the lowest levels since the early 1990s when tracking of this data began. 

Click here to see more Underage Drinking Charts.

Lifetime, annual and past month consumption and binge drinking decreased among all three grade levels surveyed (8th, 10th, and 12th).  Statistically significant decreases were noted on all prevalence rates of alcohol consumption among students in grades 8, 10 and 12 combined.  More specifically, from 2013 to 2014 statistical significant declines in underage drinking were recorded for 10th and 12th grade students reporting consuming alcohol in their lifetime, 10th graders reporting consuming alcohol in the past year and past month, and 8th and 12th graders who report they have engaged in binge drinking (5 or more drinks in a row in the last two weeks). 

Lifetime and annual consumption rates among youth in all three grade levels are at an historic low.  Three out of four 8th graders report they have never consumed alcohol, down 62% proportionally from 70% in 1991 to 27% in 2014.  Lifetime consumption of alcohol among tenth graders and high school seniors declined proportionally 41% and 25%, respectively, since 1991.  

During this same period of time annual consumption rates continued to trend downward, declining 62% proportionally among 8th graders, 39% among 10th graders, and 23% among 12th graders.  One in five eighth grade students (21%), 44% of tenth graders, and 60% of twelfth graders report they consumed alcohol in the past year. 

From 2013 to 2014 the past 30-day prevalence rate decreased among all grade levels, however, among 10th graders there was a statistically significant decrease of 2.2 percent.  Additionally, past month consumption rates have decreased significantly since survey data has been collected among all three grade levels; the proportion of students reporting drinking in the past 30 days has been cut by nearly two-thirds for 8th graders, almost in half among 10th graders, and by about one-third among high school seniors.  

  • Nine percent (9%) of 8th graders report consuming alcohol in the past month, down 64% proportionally from 25% in 1991.
  • Tenth graders’ reported monthly consumption rate is down 45% proportionally from 43% in 1991 to 24% in 2012.
  • Twelfth graders’ 30-day consumption rate of 37% is down 31% proportionally from 54% in 1991.

Significant decreases were observed in binge drinking among 8th and 12th graders and declined to a new record low level among 10th graders.  From 2013 to 2014 binge drinking rates declined one percentage point among 8th graders and nearly three percentage points among high school seniors, both recording statistically significant decreases and reaching all time low levels.  Unfortunately, students in all three grades surveyed reported a slight decrease in the perceived risk of binge drinking.

  • Among 8th grade students 4% report binge drinking in the past two weeks, yet 54% perceive binge drinking as a great risk to their health.
  • Thirteen percent (13%) of 10th graders said the engaged in binge drinking, while 54% of 10th graders believe this to be a risky behavior.
  • Among 12th graders 19% report consuming five or more drinks in a row and 45% perceive great risk in this behavior of consuming five or more drinks in a row.

In addition to the lowest levels reported in all of the underage drinking prevalence rates, students continue to report an increase in their disapproval of binge drinking among peers and a decrease in the availability of alcohol.