Alcohol use, binge drinking continues to fall among underage, report finds
By Robert Gebelhoff
June 11, 2015
A new government report found that both drinking and binge drinking among young people fell significantly between 2002 and 2013.
The percentage of underage people who drank declined from 28.8 percent to 22.7 percent. The proportion of binge drinkers — people who consumed five or more drinks during one occasion — decreased from 19.3 percent to 14.2 percent, according to the report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The study is the latest evidence that alcohol might be losing some of its allure for underage youth, defined in the study as 12 to 20 years old.
Based on the survey, which involved more than 30,000 people in that age group across the country, there are about 8.7 million underage drinkers in the United States, and about 5.4 million were binge drinkers.
The survey also found that alcohol remains the preferred substance of abuse among youths. Seventeen percent of respondents reported using tobacco while 13.6 percent reported using illicit drugs, the report said.
The study is consistent with the findings of other surveys over the past few years and coincides with campaigns by federal and local governments to reduce underage drinking.
The efforts are framed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a response to what experts consider a major health problem. Underage drinking, officials warn, can slow brain development and contribute to incidents such as violence, car crashes and drowning.
Alcohol is a factor in the deaths of some 4,300 underage drinkers each year and in hundreds of thousands of hospital visits, according to the CDC.
Federal and local governments have been encouraging parents to talk to their children about alcohol use at an early age. SAMHSA developed a campaign called “Talk. They Hear You,” featuring a mobile app with interactive games to help parents prepare for conversations with their children.
“Our target is to change social norms,” said Frances M. Harding, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. “Have norms been changed? Absolutely.”