Underage Drinking Remains a Serious Problem

Pam Harrison

November 26, 2012

More than one quarter of people who are too young to drink in the United States are drinking anyway, a new report indicates.

A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that 26.6% of survey respondents between 12 and 20 years of age reported drinking in the month prior to the survey.

Some 8.7% also reported that they purchased their own alcohol the last time they drank.

"Underage drinking...is a serious and persistent public health problem that puts our young people and our communities in danger," SAMSHA administer Pamela Hyde stated in a press release detailing the survey.

"Even though drinking is often glamorized, the truth is that underage drinking can lead to poor academic performance, sexual assault, injury, and even death."

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) asks respondents to report on their alcohol use in the past 30 days and whether they paid for the last alcoholic beverage that they drank.

If they paid for it, they are asked whether they purchased the alcohol themselves or whether they gave someone else money to buy it for them.

Findings in the November 20 report are annual averages based on combined 2008 and 2010 NSDUH data.

Rates of underage drinking in the past month were highest in Vermont at 37% and lowest in Utah at 14.3%.

Six out of the 10 states with the highest rates of underage drinking were in the Northeast; 7 out of the 10 states with the lowest underage alcohol use were in the South.

Rates of drinkers aged 12 to 20 years who bought their own alcohol were among the highest in New York at 15% and lowest in New Mexico at 2.5%, Idaho at 2.6%, and Oregon, also at 2.6%.

"There is wide variation in underage drinking and self-purchase of alcohol by underage drinkers among States," the authors report.

"But no State is immune from these problems. Highlighting the prevalence of these problems in each State can help Federal, State, and local policy makers plan for and allocate resources to combat underage drinking."

The NSDUH Report: State Estimates of Underage Alcohol Use and Self-Purchase of Alcohol: 2008 to 2010. Published November 20, 2012. Full article