Facts About Underage Drinking
Alcohol Dependence or Abuse and Age at First Use:
• Approximately 10% of 9 to 10-year-olds have started drinking.
Nearly one-third of youth begin drinking before age 13.1
• Persons reporting first use of alcohol before age 15 are more than 5
times as likely to report past-year alcohol dependence or abuse than
persons who first used alcohol at age 21 or older (16 vs. 3%).
Underage Drinking Among College Students
• An estimated 1,700 college students between the ages of 18 and 24
die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including
motor vehicle crashes. Approximately 600,000 students are
unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol.
• Approximately 700,000 students are assaulted by other students
who have been drinking.
• About 100,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault
or date rape.
• Young adults aged 18 to 22 enrolled full-time in college were
more likely than their peers not enrolled full-time (i.e., part-time
college students and persons not currently enrolled in college)
to use alcohol in the past month, binge drink, or drink heavily.
Past-month alcohol use was reported by 66.4% of full-time college
students compared with 54.1% of persons aged 18 to 22 who
were not enrolled full-time. Binge and heavy-use rates for college
students were 45.5 and 19.0%, respectively, compared with 38.4
and 13.3%, respectively, for 18- to 22-year-olds not enrolled full
time in college.
Binge Drinking Among Underage Youth
• In 2006, about 10.8 million persons aged 12 to 20 (28.3% of
this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the past month.
Approximately 7.2 million (19.0%) were binge drinkers, and 2.4
million (6.2%) were heavy drinkers. These figures have remained
essentially the same since the 2002 survey.
• When youth drink, they tend to drink intensively, often consuming
four to five drinks at one time. Monitoring The Future (MTF) data
show that 11% of 8th graders, 22% of 10th graders, and 29% of
12th graders had engaged in heavy episodic—or binge—drinking
within the past 2 weeks. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of
drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration [BAC] to
.08 grams or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds
to consuming five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks
for women, in about 2 hours.
• Nationwide, 25.5% of students had had more than 5 drinks of
alcohol in a row (i.e., within a couple of hours) on more than 1 of
the 30 days preceding the survey (i.e., heavy episodic drinking).
Alcohol Use and Adolescent Development
• Alcohol is the drug of choice among America’s adolescents, used by
more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs.
• Children of alcoholics (COAs) are between 4 and 10 times more
likely to become alcoholics than children from families with no
alcoholic adults. COAs are at elevated risk for earlier onset of
drinking and earlier progression into drinking problems.
• Among 8th graders, 30-day prevalence of alcohol use has declined
by more than one-third since its peak level in 1996. Among 10th
and 12th graders, the proportional declines from recent peaks have
been smaller—one-sixth among 10th graders since 2000 and one-seventh
among 12th graders since 1997.
• In 2006, the prevalence of being drunk at least once in the prior
month stands at 6% of 8th graders, 19% of 10th graders, and
30% of 12th graders.
• Past 30-day prevalence of the use of flavored alcoholic beverages
(sometimes called “alcopops” or “malternatives”) was at slightly
lower levels in 2006 in all grades than in 2005, having declined by
1.1 percentage points among 8th graders and 3.7 percentage points
among 12th graders.
Health and Safety Risks of Underage Drinking
• Underage drinking is a risk factor for heavy drinking later in life,
and continued heavy use of alcohol leads to increased risk across
the lifespan for acute consequences and for medical problems such
as cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, and esophagus; liver
cirrhosis; pancreatitis; and hemorrhagic stroke.
• Underage drinking is a leading contributor to death from injuries,
which are the main cause of death for people under age 21.
Annually, about 5,000 people under age 21 die from alcoholrelated
injuries involving underage drinking. About 1,900 (38%) of
the 5,000 deaths involve motor vehicle crashes, about 1,600 (32%)
result from homicides, and about 300 (6%) result from suicides.
• Youth who report drinking before the age of 15 are more likely
than those who begin drinking later in life to have other substance
abuse problems during adolescence; to engage in risky sexual
behavior; and to be involved in car crashes, unintentional injuries,
and physical fights after drinking, both during adolescence and in
• Underage drinking plays a significant role in risky sexual behavior,
including unwanted, unintended, and unprotected sexual activity,
and sex with multiple partners. Such behavior increases the risk
for unplanned pregnancy and for contracting sexually transmitted
diseases (STDs), including infection with HIV/AIDS.
• Among the 33.9% of currently sexually active students nationwide,
23.3% had drunk alcohol or used drugs before their last incidence
of sexual intercourse.
Taken from the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence