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Underage Drinking Statistics

Many more young people use alcohol than tobacco or illegal drugs. In 2014, about 3 million 12- to 17-year-olds (or 11.5 percent of this age group) reported using alcohol during the past month.1

As young people grow older, the chance that they will use alcohol grows. About 10 percent of 12-year-olds report that they have tried alcohol; by age 18, nearly 70 percent say they have had at least one drink.2

Young people seldom drink alone. In fact, nearly 80 percent of those drinking underage in 2013 were with two or more people the last time they drank.1 The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has found that alcohol use by a friend makes it very likely that a young person already is using alcohol or might start drinking.3

Alcohol use by young people often occurs in a home setting. In 2013, 52 percent of 12- to 20-year- olds who drank reported that they last drank in someone else’s home, and 34 percent reported that the drinking occurred in their own home.1

Teens drink less often than adults. But when teens do drink, they drink more than adults. On average, young people have about five drinks on a single occasion.2 This dangerous behavior is called binge drinking. It increases the risk of serious problems and even death.

Alcohol use by young people often is made possible by adults. After all, teens can’t legally purchase alcohol on their own.


1 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (3.33MB). (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

2 Office of the Surgeon General. (2007). The Surgeon General's call to action to prevent and reduce underage drinking: A guide for families (PDF 900KB). Rockville, MD: U.S. Department

3 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2015). Alcohol screening and brief intervention for youth: A practitioner’s guide. (NIH Publication No. 11-7805). Rockville, MD: National Institutes of Health.