Underage Drinking & the Law

What parents need to know now about the new Social Host Laws

2001-2010 Trends in Alcohol Use and Recency by Age


More good news! Although the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) approaches underage alcohol use from a different angle than the other studies, the trend data from their report, The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, echoes the news: usage and recency (the last time one had a drink) continue to fall among teens and pre-teens.

The first graph demonstrates the percentage change in children who say they’ve never had any alcohol to drink.  SAMHSA’s results are more optimistic than Monitoring the Future’s (MTF). For example, the graph below says that 39.9 percent of 17 year olds report they have never had a drink while MTF’s data indicates that only 29 percent of high school seniors would agree. Below, 56.5 percent of 15 year olds claim they’ve never tried alcohol, compared with only 41.8 percent of 10th graders in the MTF study. Despite the variations in the two studies, both demonstrate a steady decline in alcohol use among teens.

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The following overly complex graph demonstrates that kids were drinking significantly less frequently in 2010 than they were in 2001. With one exception, all the comparisons are negative numbers. For example, the columns on the far left show that fewer kids answered “Yes” when asked if they had any alcohol in the past 30 days in 2010 than in 2001. Specifically, 10.3 percent fewer 17 year olds drank in the prior 30 days, as did 22.9 percent fewer 16 year olds, 28.8 percent fewer 15 year olds and 21.7 percent fewer 14 year olds. Interestingly, when comparing MTF’s data for 30-day prevalence (“In the past 30 days, have you had alcoholic beverages to drink?”), MTF indicates even bigger drops in usage between 2010 and 2001: 17.3 percent among 12th graders,  25.9 percent among 10th graders and 35.8 percent among 8th graders. All in all, good news across both studies.

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