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Underage Drinking Reaches Record Low Levels

The just released Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) survey, found alcohol consumption among the nation’s youth continues to decline gradually. The 2019 data show record low levels in underage drinking on all prevalence rates measured  – lifetime, past year, past month, binge drinking, and heavy drinking among 12 to 20 year olds – including nearly 3 million fewer underage drinkers and 2.2 million fewer binge drinkers over the past ten years.

In 2019, 139.7 million people (or 51 percent) 12 years of age or older consumed alcohol in the past month, including nearly 7 million people for whom alcohol is illegal. Between 2018 and 2019 the survey noted similar, albeit slightly lower, rates of alcohol consumption among 12 to 20 year olds. While underage drinking decreased, these declines were not statistically significant year over year, however, they represent a continuation of a steady and long-term decline.

From 2010 to 2019, past month consumption among 12 to 20 year olds declined 29 percent proportionally from 26% in 2010 to 18.5% in 2019. Underage binge drinking (four/five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past month) rates decreased 17 percent proportionally from 2015 to 2019 (17% to 11%, respectively), while rates of heavy drinking (four/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 33 percent proportionally from 3.3% in 2015 to 2.2% in 2019.

Current underage drinkers are not drinking alone and typically drinking at someone else’s home or their own home. Seven out of 10 report they did not pay for the alcohol they most recently consumed; 33 percent of youth who paid for the alcohol report they paid for it themselves. The leading sources of alcohol not paid for by youth is an unrelated person 21 or older (29%) or their own parents or family member who is 21 or older (28%). Additional sources include getting it from someone under 21 (16%) and taking it from their own or someone else’s home (12%).

For nearly three decades has been a leader in the fight to eliminate impaired driving and underage drinking and has helped play a significant role in these noted reductions guiding a lifetime of conversations around alcohol responsibility by bringing individuals, families and communities together through programs such as Ask, Listen, Learn, and OnResponsibility. Today’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health data is positive news, but our work is not finished - follow us on social media to help our nation’s youth say “yes” to a healthy lifestyle and “no” to underage drinking.

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