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National Substance Use Trends Reveal Fewer American Youth Are Drinking Alcohol

The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report was recently released. This national survey collects and reports data on past month consumption, binge drinking (defined as 4 or more drinks for a female and 5 or more for a male on the same occasion in the past 30 days), and heavy alcohol consumption (defined as binge drinking on five or more days in the past month), among Americans 12 years of age and older. The 2017 report is based on nearly 68,000 completed interviews.

According to the 2017 NSDUH, slightly more than half (140.6 million) Americans 12 or older consumed alcohol in the past month, including 25% who are current binge drinkers and 6% who were heavy alcohol users in the past month. These estimates reflect a continuing long and steady decline in alcohol consumption.

Among the nation’s youth underage drinking also continued to decline. According to the 2017 NSDUH, about 7.4 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 20 report current alcohol consumption; this represents nearly 20% of this age group for whom alcohol consumption is illegal. Although past month alcohol consumption was slightly higher in 2017 than 2016 (not statistically significant), over the past decade, the rate of current drinking declined 35% proportionally from 26.5% in 2008 to 19.7% in 2017.

In 2017, binge drinking and heavy alcohol consumption rates reached all-time record low levels (12% and 2.5%, respectively). Over the past ten years, binge drinking and heavy alcohol consumption among youth trended downward. However, due to methodological changes in the survey definition of binge drinking from 5 or more drinks to specific gender definitions (4 drinks for females and 5 drinks for males), estimates of binge drinking and heavy alcohol consumption are not considered comparable prior to 2015. From 2015 to 2017, binge drinking decreased 11% proportionally while heavy drinking declined 24%.

Though the report confirms progress is being made, underage drinking remains an ongoing problem. These charts reflect the progress we have made over the past ten years and the importance of collaborative partnerships and innovative initiatives in addressing underage drinking.

*Click on the images to enlarge graphs.