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Underage drinking, binge boozing by minors is on the decline?

Underage drinking, binge boozing by minors is on the decline?


Source: USA Today

Tyler Pager

June 11, 2015


Underage drinking and binge drinking rates among young people are on the decline across the USA, a new government study finds.


A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released Thursday found underage drinking among all U.S. residents from age 12 through 20 dropped 6.1%. Underage binge drinking decreased 5.1%.


The survey examined the years 2002 to 2013. In the final year of the study, 22.7% of the nation’s young people reported that they had an alcoholic drink in the last 30 days.


“While we’re always very happy about these declines, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we have approximately 9 million underage drinkers in the country,” said Rich Lucey, special assistant to the director at SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse.


About 14.2% of underage people reported they had engaged in binge drinking – defined as having five or more drinks on the same occasion – in the last 30 days. That percentage is down from just under 20% in 2002.


For those age 18 through 20, however, the rate of binge drinking has stayed between 39% and 44% for the past two decades, Lucey said.


“We as a country could all do a much better job . to really start to drive those numbers down because I don’t think any of us are comfortable with an alarmingly high rate of binge drinking among that population, especially when we know the consequences related to it,” Lucey said.


The report used data from the National Survey for Drug Use and Health, which measures drinking rates among those 12 and older. The survey found 59.4% of the college age population reported drinking in the last 30 days.


Alcohol also still remains the primary drug used by youth with 22.7% reporting they drink, compared to 16.9% who said they use tobacco and 13.6% who said they use illicit drugs.


Lucey attributed the drop to an increased focus on reducing underage drinking at the federal, state and local levels over the past 10 years.


The influx of new laws cracking down on underage possession and consumption of alcohol and drinking and driving has also contributed to the drop, said James Fell, a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, whose research focuses on drunk driving.


He said in the last 10 years there have been at least 20 laws mandating stricter penalties for fake IDs, hosting drinking parties for people underage, known as social host laws, and zero tolerance policies for underage drinking and driving.


“It doesn’t surprise me this is going on,” Fell said. “The combination of all those laws and enforcement will deter underage people from drinking.”