Prevalence Of Alcohol Use Among Young People In The US

"• Alcohol and nicotine in all of its forms (including smoking cigarettes, using smokeless tobacco, and vaping nicotine) are the two major licit drugs that are included in the MTF surveys, though even these are now legally prohibited for purchase by those under the age of 21, which is virtually all of our respondents. Alcohol use is more widespread than use of illicit drugs. Nearly three fifths of 12th grade students (59%) have at least tried alcohol, and about three out of ten (29%) are current drinkers – that is, they reported consuming some alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey (Table 4-2). Even among 8th graders, a quarter (25%) reported any alcohol use in their lifetime, and one in 13 (7.9%) is a current (past 30-day) drinker.5

"• Of greater concern than just any use of alcohol is its use to the point of intoxication: In 2019 more than two out of five 12th graders (41%), one quarter of 10th graders (26%), and about one tenth of all 8th graders (10.1%) said they had been drunk at least once in their lifetime. The levels of self-reported drunkenness during the 30 days immediately preceding the survey are high: 17.5%, 8.8%, and 2.6%, respectively, for grades 12, 10, and 8.

"• Another measure of heavy drinking asks respondents to report on how many occasions during the last two weeks they had consumed five or more drinks in a row. In 2019 prevalence levels for this behavior, which we refer to as binge drinking, were 14.4%, 8.5%, and 3.8% in the 12th, 10th, and 8th grade, respectively.6

"• Extreme binge drinking, also known as high intensity drinking,7 refers to the consumption of 10 or more drinks in a row or 15 or more drinks in a row on a single occasion. One of the most concerning findings from the alcohol frequency results relate to this outcome. Table 4-4b shows that prevalence of having 5 or more drinks in a row in the prior two weeks – our standard measure of “binge drinking” – was 14.4% for 12th graders in 2019, but more than one third of them (5.3% of the total) said that they had 10 or more drinks in a row, and more than one fifth of them (3.2% of the total) reported 15 or more drinks in a row. Similarly, in 10th and 8th grades between 39% to 46% of youth who reported 5 or more drinks in a row in the prior two weeks reported 10 or more drinks in a row during the same period. (Questions about 15 or more drinks in a row were not asked of 8th and 10th graders.)"


Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., & Patrick, M. E. (2020). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2019: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.