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Home » Publications » Surveillance Reports » Surveillance Report #107

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research
Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System

SURVEILLANCE REPORT #107

TRENDS IN UNDERAGE DRINKING IN THE UNITED STATES, 1991–2015


Chiung M. Chen, M.A.1
Young-Hee Yoon, Ph.D.1
Vivian B. Faden, Ph.D.2

1 CSR, Incorporated
Suite 500
4250 N. Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203

2 Office of Science Policy and Communications
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
5635 Fishers Lane, MSC 9304
Bethesda, MD 20892–9304

March 2017


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Public Health Service
National Institutes of Health

CSR, Incorporated operates the Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System (AEDS) under Contract No. HHSN275201300016C for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Dr. Rosalind A. Breslow (Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research) serves as the NIAAA Contracting Officer's Representative on the contract.

HIGHLIGHTS

This surveillance report, prepared by the Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System (AEDS), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), presents data on underage drinking among youth ages 12–20 for 1991–2015. This is the seventh of a series of reports to be published every 2 years on underage drinking and related attitudes and risk behaviors. Data for this series are compiled from three separate nationally representative surveys: the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). Note that in 2015 NSDUH, the threshold for female binge drinking was changed to consumption of 4 or more drinks (from 5 or more drinks) on an occasion in the past 30 days. The following are highlights of trends from 1991 through 2015.

Prevalence of use

  • Although there are marked differences in absolute values of estimates, the trends across all three survey data sources show an overall decline in the prevalence of alcohol consumption in the past 30 days between 1991 and 2015. In 2015, 20.3 percent of youth ages 12–20 reported consuming alcohol in the past 30 days (NSDUH).
  • Overall, the rate of decline in the past-30 day alcohol consumption is greater in males than in females in the last few years. In 2015, the trends have converged (19.8% among males and 20.8% among females), meaning there is no significant gender difference in prevalence across ages 12–20 (NSDUH).
  • Throughout this period, rates of underage drinking remained highest among non-Hispanic whites, followed by Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks. Rates were also higher among youth ages 12–20 not enrolled in school as compared with those enrolled in school (NSDUH), although rates among full-time college students ages 18–20 remained higher than among their same-age peers not enrolled or enrolled part-time (data not shown).

Drinking patterns

  • The median age of initiation of drinking alcohol has increased from 13.65 years in 1991–1993 to 14.64 years in 2013–2015 (NSDUH). In addition, there has been a gradual decline in the proportion of youth reporting initiating drinking at age 12 or younger (NSDUH, YRBS).
  • Over the course of the study period, males have generally maintained higher average frequency, quantity, and volume of consumption in the past 30 days than females. In 2013–2015, youth drinkers ages 12–20 reported drinking on an average of 4.93 days in the past 30 days. They consumed an average of 4.26 drinks on the days that they drank. Their average total volume of consumption was 25.9 drinks in the past 30 days (NSDUH).
  • According to NSDUH, a household-based survey, overall rates of binge drinking increased between 1993 and 2001, from 12.1 to 18.6 percent, but have trended down to 12.9 percent in 2015. Data from the secondary school-based surveys (MTF and YRBS), by contrast, show an overall decline in binge drinking rates; the recent downward trends appear to have started in 1999 (MTF) and possibly as early as 1997 (YRBS). Persistent gender gaps in binge drinking rates are observed over time but have narrowed in recent years. Despite an overall decrease in binge drinking, the rate of decline for extreme binge (high-intensity) drinking (10+, 15+ drinks in a row) has been slower than for all binge drinking (5+ drinks in a row) (MTF).

Alcohol-related attitudes

  • The percentages of youth who strongly disapprove of others regularly consuming alcohol or binge drinking and who consider regular or binge drinking a great risk (MTF) show a declining trend during the 1990s, particularly in the early 1990s. The trend was reversed in the 2000s, showing a gradual increase for ten years or so. However, the percentages among females have started to decline since 2011. Although the Healthy People 2020 target for binge drinking was met by 2015, the attitudes toward alcohol harms, which are more relevant for prevention purposes, are still below the target.

Alcohol-related risk behaviors

  • Between 1991 and 2015, trends from the YRBS show an overall decline in the prevalence of driving while under the influence of alcohol among secondary school youth, and similar downward trends are observed in the NSDUH data for the prevalence after 2002. Although the NSDUH data show an increase in the prevalence between 1995 and 2002, the difference is due to the large increase in rates among 18- to 20-year-olds—from 15.6 percent in 1995 to 22.2 percent in 2002, since the rates among younger youth remained relatively stable (NSDUH).

INTRODUCTION

This surveillance report on underage drinking is one of a series of reports published to monitor trends in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related morbidity and mortality. These reports are prepared by the Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System (AEDS), and Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and are intended to be useful to researchers, planners, policymakers, and other professionals interested in alcohol misuse by young people and its associated consequences. In 2007, the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking brought renewed focus to this issue. The Call to Action reviewed the risk factors and outcomes associated with underage drinking, presented a developmental framework for understanding and addressing underage drinking, and identified six goals for the Nation to address the problem of underage drinking. This surveillance report responds to Goal 5, “Work to improve public health surveillance on underage drinking and on population-based risk factors for this behavior” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2007, p. 37). The data presented herein also are essential in assessing changes toward meeting the Nation’s health promotion and disease prevention goals to reduce underage drinking as stated in Healthy People 2020 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2010). This is the seventh surveillance report on underage drinking developed by NIAAA. AEDS will issue follow-up reports on this topic every 2 years.

Rates of alcohol consumption among underage youth are a cause for concern (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine 2004). In this report, 20.3 percent of 12- to 20-year-olds reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days (2015 National Survey of Drug Use and Health [NSDUH]). This is a decrease from the rate of 33.4 percent over two decades earlier (1991 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse [NHSDA]), although changes in survey methodology preclude a direct comparison of these two estimates. In the United States, alcohol consumption begins early, with a median age of 14.64 years (2013–2015 NSDUH), and 17.2 percent of high school students reporting that they consumed their first drink of alcohol before age 13 (Kann et al. 2016). By the 12th grade, 17.2 percent of adolescents report binge drinking (consuming 5 or more drinks in a row within the past 2 weeks) (2015 Monitoring the Future [MTF]).

Underage drinking is associated with an array of social, emotional, behavioral, and health problems (Committee on Substance Abuse 2010; Masten et al. 2009; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention 2012; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2013). For example, alcohol use caused youth to behave in ways they later regretted, interfered with their ability to think clearly, or caused them to drive unsafely. Youth who drink and drive are at increased risk of involvement in accidents because of the duality of alcohol-related impairment and relative driving inexperience (Peck et al. 2008). Underage drinking is associated not only with driving after consuming alcohol but also with riding with a peer who has consumed alcohol (Miller et al. 2007; O’Malley and Johnston 2013; Terry-McElrath et al. 2014). When youth consume alcohol, they are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors such as unprotected sexual intercourse, having multiple partners, and being drunk or high during intercourse (Brookmeyer and Henrich 2009; Nkansah-Amankra et al. 2011; Oshri et al. 2013; Seth et al. 2011; Stueve and O’Donnell 2005), putting them at risk of adverse consequences such as sexual victimization (Champion et al. 2004; Thompson et al. 2012), unwanted pregnancy (Salas-Wright et al. 2015), and sexually transmitted infections (Cook et al. 2002; Khan et al. 2012). Adolescents under the influence of alcohol or with a history of drinking alcohol are also more likely to engage in violence, such as physical fighting and assault (Blitstein et al. 2005; Kodjo et al. 2004; Salas-Wright et al. 2016; Swahn et al. 2004, 2013; Wells et al. 2004). Adolescent alcohol use disorder and alcohol intoxication while depressed increase the risk for suicidal behavior (Chatterji et al. 2004; Esposito-Smythers and Spirito 2004; McManama O’Brien et al. 2014; Schilling et al. 2009). Several studies have established a convincing link between youth alcohol use, particularly binge drinking, and illicit drug use (Miller et al. 2007; Siliquini et al. 2012), and identified distinct brain networks that predispose adolescents to risky behaviors such as experimenting with drugs and alcohol (Whelan et al. 2012). In 2015, among youths ages 12 to 17 who were heavy drinkers (i.e., having consumed 5 or more drinks for males or 4 or more drinks for females on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days), 71.2 percent were current illicit drug users and 64.2 percent were current marijuana users. By contrast, the respective percentages among youths who were not current alcohol users were 5.1 percent for current illicit drug use and 3.6 percent for current marijuana use (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality 2016).

Despite declines in overall alcohol use among teens in the last decade and a half, Miech and colleagues (2016) found that among 12th graders surveyed in 2015, 17.2 percent reported consuming 5 or more alcoholic drinks, 6.1 percent reported consuming 10 or more drinks, and 3.5 percent reported consuming 15 or more drinks in a row at least once in the last 2 weeks. This type of extreme binge drinking in particular puts youth at risk for injuries, alcohol-related suicide, homicide, sexual assault, alcohol poisoning, motor vehicle crashes, other drug use, alcohol use disorder, memory blackouts, altered brain development, poor academic performance (Hingson and White 2013, 2014; White and Hingson 2013; White et al. 2011), and adverse effects on new verbal learning (Nguyen-Louie et al. 2016). Because their brain development is not fully complete, adolescents are more sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol and thus are more likely to exhibit neurobehavioral and cognitive deficits than adults (Crews et al. 2000; Guerri and Pascual 2010; Jacobus and Tapert 2013; Spear 2014; Squeglia et al. 2009; White and Swartzwelder 2005). Neuroimaging studies show that adolescent binge drinking is associated with discrepant functional brain activation patterns, alterations in gray- and white-matter brain structure, and altered structural volumes in several brain regions, including the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and cerebellum (Jacobus and Tapert 2013; Vetreno et al. 2016; Welch et al. 2013). Results from preclinical studies have shown long-term adverse effects of adolescent alcohol exposures on brain structure and function, neurogenesis, and cognitive and neurobehavioral consequences in adulthood through epigenetic changes (Coleman et al. 2014; Crews et al. 2016; Gass et al. 2014; Gilpin et al. 2012; Logrip et al. 2013; Semenova 2012; Spear 2016; Taffe et al. 2010; Vetreno et al. 2016).

A large body of literature has found that age at initiation of drinking (i.e., the first consumption of a full drink) is associated with future drinking patterns and alcohol-related risk behaviors (Blomeyer et al. 2013; Buchmann et al. 2009; Caetano et al. 2014; Dawson et al. 2007, 2008; Deutsch et al. 2013; Faden 2006; Grant et al. 2001; Guttmannova et al. 2011; Hermos et al. 2008; Hingson and Zha 2009; Hingson et al. 2002, 2006; Lee et al. 2012; Liang and Chikritzhs 2013; McBride et al. 2014; Stueve and O’Donnell, 2005; Swahn et al. 2008, 2013; Warner and White 2003; Wells et al. 2004; York et al. 2004; Young et al. 2006; Zakrajsek and Shope 2006). For example, early age at drinking initiation is associated with past-year drinking (Lee et al. 2012), frequency and quantity of drinking (Deutsch et al. 2013), volume of drinking (Caetano et al. 2014), binge drinking (Buchmann et al. 2009; Caetano et al. 2014; Liang and Chikritzhs 2013), getting drunk and high, self-reports of substance use interfering with life activities (Stueve and O’Donnell 2005), alcohol abuse and dependence later in life (Caetano et al. 2014; Dawson et al. 2008; Grant et al. 2001; Guttmannova et al. 2011; York et al. 2004), prescription drug misuse (Hermos et al. 2008), comorbid reports of physical fighting and suicide attempts (Swahn et al. 2013), and dating violence victimization and perpetration (Swahn et al. 2008). Hingson and colleagues (2002) found that age at initiation of drinking was associated with driving after drinking and being involved in drinking-related vehicle crashes. Zakrajsek and Shope (2006) found that age at drinking initiation was associated with risky driving and alcohol-related driving offenses. Hingson and Zha (2009) found that early age at drinking onset was prospectively associated with unintentionally injuring oneself and others when under the influence of alcohol.

DATA SOURCES

Data for this report are drawn from three sources: the NSDUH, the MTF survey, and the YRBS.

National Survey on Drug Use and Health

The NSDUH (formerly the NHSDA) is conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The nationally representative survey was initiated in 1971 and has been administered annually since 1991. The survey is administered at the household level through in-person interviews. Since 1999, computer-assisted interviewing methods have been used, including audio computer-assisted self-interviewing for selected survey components. In this same year, the survey sample was expanded to allow for computation of State-specific prevalence estimates. In 2002, the survey was given its new name (NSDUH), and additional methodological changes were made that affected some prevalence rates and represented a new baseline. These included a $30 incentive to all respondents, which resulted in substantial increases in response rates and improved data quality-control measures. In 2002 and 2011, new population data from the 2000 and 2010 decennial Censuses, respectively, became available for use in NSDUH sample weighting procedures. Unlike previous designs that divide the sample approximately equally among three age groups—12 to 17 years, 18 to 25 years, and 26 years or older—the 2014/2015 design places more sample in the 26 or older age groups to provide more accurate estimates for the aging drug use population. The partial questionnaire redesign in 2015 changes the threshold of binge alcohol use from 5 or more drinks for both sexes to 5 or more drinks for males and 4 or more drinks for females on an occasion in the past 30 days. All respondents ages 12–20 years from the NSDUH public-use data were selected for this surveillance report.

Monitoring the Future

The MTF survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and conducted annually by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. The MTF was initiated in 1975 among 12th graders only, and 8th and 10th graders were added in 1991, providing a nationally representative sample of secondary-school students in those grades. The survey is administered in school to a sample of students enrolled in public and private secondary schools. Since 1976, a random sample of 12th graders has been followed biannually through a self-administered mail-back questionnaire. For this surveillance report, all respondents from the 8th, 10th, and 12th grade samples were included in the analyses.

Youth Risk Behavior Survey

The YRBS is conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and administered every 2 years to students enrolled in public or private schools in grades 9 through 12. Initiated in 1991, the survey provides a nationally representative sample of youth enrolled in high school. All respondents from the biannual surveys were included in this surveillance report.

All three sources of data for this surveillance report are nationally representative repeated cross-sectional surveys that provide data on youth alcohol consumption and related risk behaviors. As described above, there are also important differences among the three surveys related to the ages of youth sampled, the timing of the survey, the setting of survey administration and consequent type of youth sampled and level of anonymity involved, and the wording of the questions. Specifications of the three surveys are summarized in the Appendix and briefly reviewed here.

Age-Groups

Whereas the NSDUH collects information on youth as young as 12, the YRBS collects information from youth in grades 9 through 12, and the MTF skips grades, surveying youth in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades.

Periodicity

Both the NSDUH and the MTF are administered annually, whereas the YRBS collects data every 2 years.

Survey administration location

As school-based surveys, the MTF and YRBS collect data only on youth currently enrolled in school. Data from the NSDUH cover both youth enrolled in school and those not enrolled. Given the different settings of the survey administration, there are different levels of anonymity. For example, youth may feel comfortable about revealing sensitive information, such as alcohol and other drug use, in the more anonymous school setting than at home (Faden et al. 2004; Fendrich and Johnson 2001; Fowler and Stringfellow 2001; Sudman 2001). On the other hand, youth may also respond to perceived peer influence in the school setting and thus may exaggerate certain risk behaviors in their self-reports, although such effects are hard to assess (Fowler and Stringfellow 2001; Harrison 2001). Therefore, although alcohol consumption rates may be under-reported in the NSDUH, they may be inflated in the MTF and YRBS datasets.

Question Wording

The three surveys differ in the number and wording of questions on alcohol consumption and on related risk behaviors. The reference period for all surveys is generally the past 30 days. However, the MTF asks about binge drinking in the past 2 weeks, whereas the other surveys ask about it in the past month. The NSDUH and the YRBS ask about age at initiation of drinking, but the MTF survey asks about grade at initiation of drinking. All surveys ask about driving under the influence, but the MTF asks only the 12th graders. The MTF frames the question around whether the respondent has ever gotten a moving violation ticket or warning after drinking alcohol. Only in one of the six questionnaire forms does MTF ask 12th graders the questions about driving after drinking alcohol or having 5 or more drinks in a row. The Appendix specifies the wording used in each survey for the indicators included in the report. Data tables and figures are not provided for all questions listed.

METHODS

This surveillance report tracks alcohol consumption and associated behaviors among youth ages 12–20 years old. Age 12 is the youngest age for which nationally representative data are available (from NSDUH). Age 20 is the last year before youth are legally allowed to drink alcohol. Findings are presented for 1991 through 2015, the latest year for which data are available for this report from all three data sources. For new indicators collected only in the past several years, all available data are reported (i.e., detailed data by race, data on selected alcohol-related risk behaviors).

Definitions

The report presents trend data on different categories of indicators for alcohol consumption and related risk behaviors, including prevalence of use, pattern of use, alcohol-related attitudes, and alcohol-related risk behaviors. Definitions of measures used, including descriptions of calculated measures, are provided below:

  • Prevalence of use
    • – Any drinking of alcohol in the past 30 days (more than just a sip or two from a drink)
  • Initiation of Drinking
    • – Age at first use of alcohol
    • – Initiating drinking at age 12 years or younger
  • Frequency of use
    • – Number of drinking days in the past 30 days
  • Quantity of use
    • – Usual number of drinks on drinking days in the past 30 days
  • Volume of use
    • – Total number of drinks in the past 30 days, computed as frequency multiplied by quantity in the past 30 days
  • Binge drinking
    • – Any drinking of 5 or more drinks in a row in the past 30 days (for NSDUH 1991–2014 and YRBS data) or in the past 2 weeks (for MTF data); any drinking of 5 or more drinks for males and 4 or more drinks for females in a row in the past 30 days (for NSDUH 2015 data)
    • – Frequency of drinking 5 or more drinks (for NSDUH 1999–2014 data) or 5 or more drinks for males and 4 or more drinks for females (for NSDUH 2015 data) in a row in the past 30 days
    • – Frequency of drinking 5 or more drinks (for NSDUH 1991–2014 data) or 5 or more drinks for males and 4 or more drinks for females (for NSDUH 2015 data) in a row in the past 30 days, categorized as 0 days, 1–2 days, 3–4 days, and 5 or more days
  • Extreme binge (high-intensity) drinking (i.e., twice or three times as much as the traditional 5-drink cutoff)
    • – Any drinking of 10 or more drinks in a row in the past 2 weeks
    • – Any drinking of 15 or more drinks in a row in the past 2 weeks
  • Drunkenness
    • – Frequency of being drunk or very high from drinking in the past 30 days
  • Alcohol-related attitudes
    • – Disapproval of consuming 1 or 2 drinks nearly every day, categorized as don’t disapprove, disapprove, and strongly disapprove
    • – Disapproval of consuming 5 or more drinks once or twice each weekend, categorized as don’t disapprove, disapprove, and strongly disapprove
    • – Perception of risk of harm for those drinking 1 or 2 drinks nearly every day, categorized as no risk, slight risk, moderate risk, and great risk
    • – Perception of risk of harm for those drinking 5 or more drinks once or twice each weekend, categorized as no risk, slight risk, moderate risk, and great risk
  • Alcohol-related risk behaviors
    • – Driving after drinking alcohol in the past 30 days
    • – Riding in a car driven by someone who had been drinking in the past 30 days
    • – Drinking alcohol or using drugs before last sexual intercourse
    • – Drinking and activity with risk of physical danger in the past 12 months
    • – Drinking and getting into legal trouble in the past 12 months
    • – Problems with family or friends caused by drinking in the past 12 months

Analyses

Analyses in this report are mainly descriptive. The report examines a wide range of relevant data over multiple years and discusses observed changes without reference to more complicated statistical analyses of trends, such as those used by Faden and Fay (2004) and Faden (2006). The exceptions are Figures 1-1, 1-2, 6-1, and 6-2, where the trends in prevalence of drinking and binge drinking are represented by segmented lines that were fitted using joinpoint (piecewise) regression models (Kim et al. 2000). These lines indicate significant changes in the trends over time.

For different analyses, data are presented by sex, race (non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black) and Hispanic origin, age or current school grade, and school enrollment status. More detailed data by race and Hispanic origin (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, Native American/Alaska Native, Asian/Native Hawaiian Islander/Other Pacific Islander, Hispanic, more than one race) are presented in the tables for 1999–2015. To increase the stability of estimates, prevalence estimates by age are presented in age groupings in the tables, specifically ages 12–14, 15–17, and 18–20. In the figures, these prevalence estimates are shown by single age and grade. Three-year moving averages are used for tracking certain alcohol consumption measures among current drinkers in order to minimize data suppression problems for groups with small sample sizes (e.g., number of drinkers in the 12–14 age group) and to avoid large fluctuations in the mean estimates. For selected indicators, trend data from the three data sources are compared in separate graphs. Because of the large age span of the NSDUH and its inclusion of youth enrolled and not enrolled in school, more detailed analyses by demographic characteristics are presented for the NSDUH only. We present results from secondary data analysis for NSDUH and YRBS data, because publicly available reports on these surveys do not cover all the indicators, categories, and age groupings applicable to this report. When applicable estimates by grade are publicly available from MTF reports, these are presented in tables of this surveillance report to facilitate comparison across different surveys. We present our secondary analysis results based on public-use MTF data only when the aggregate estimates are not publicly available elsewhere. Because some MTF questions are asked only of subsamples, we note in the MTF figures and tables when estimates are based on data from subsamples.

To ensure reliability of findings presented, all outlier values were censored. Specifically, cases with reported alcohol consumption of greater than 20 drinks per drinking day were truncated at 20 drinks on drinking days. Cases with missing values for an indicator of interest were excluded from analysis for that indicator.

To enable readers to assess the precision of the estimates provided, each estimate is accompanied by a value for the standard error of the estimate (labeled S.E. in the tables). Multiplying the standard error by 1.96 provides a margin of error above and below each estimate. This range defines a 95-percent confidence interval that implies that were the estimation process repeated again and again, 95 percent of the calculated intervals would be expected to contain the true value being estimated. Estimates with very large standard errors can be extremely unreliable. The reliability of estimates (r) was assessed using the relative standard error (RSE), computed as RSE=100 × (SE(r)/r). Following the recommendations of the National Center for Health Statistics (Klein et al. 2002), estimates with RSE>17.5 percent were considered of low reliability and are marked in the tables with the symbol #.

Limitations

Due to differences in sample populations (i.e., only school-enrolled youth vs. both enrolled and not enrolled youth; 12- to 20-year-olds for NSDUH vs. 8th, 10th, and 12th graders for MTF vs. 9th–12th graders for YRBS) and survey administration (i.e., in school vs. at home), comparisons among the three data sources need to be made with caution. Numerous factors contribute to lower estimates of adolescent alcohol use in NSDUH than in MTF or YRBS and lower estimates in MTF than in YRBS, including interview privacy, focus of the survey, prominence of mentions of substance use, procedures for obtaining parental permission, assurances of anonymity or confidentiality, placement and context of substance use questions in the interview, survey mode, and structure and wording of survey questions (SAMHSA 2012). Despite differences in prevalence estimates across surveys within a single year, it is possible to compare trends across years. For example, there are marked differences in absolute values of past-30-day alcohol consumption prevalence among findings from the NSDUH, the MTF, and the YRBS; however, trend lines from all three surveys show a decrease in prevalence between 1997 and 2015.

Furthermore, the NSDUH also had a major change of design during this period. Close examination of the NSDUH data for past-30-day consumption shows a steep decrease in rates between 1998 and 1999 followed by an increase from 1999 to 2003. It is not clear if this is a real increase or an artifact of the 1999 methodological changes. The 2002 methodological changes—including the respondent incentive and the improved data collection quality-control measures—also may have resulted in higher self-reported substance use by respondents (SAMHSA 2003). Caution needs to be taken in comparing estimates from before and after 1999, as well as from before and after 2002. The major change in survey methodology of 1999 and the additional changes of 2002 are marked with shading in the graphs included in this report. The partial questionnaire redesign in 2015 lowered the threshold of binge drinking for females from 5 or more drinks to 4 or more drinks in a row in the past 30 days and could potentially affect the trends by artificially inflating the 2015 prevalence estimates for females and for both sexes combined. Prevalence estimates from the NSDUH included in this report may differ slightly from those presented in reports issued by SAMHSA, as SAMHSA analysts use a restricted-use dataset for their analyses. The same is true with estimates generated from our secondary analysis of public-use MTF data.

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List of Figures

Figure 1-1. Prevalence of drinking in the past 30 days, by sex, 1991–2015

Figure 1-2. NSDUH: Prevalence of drinking in the past 30 days among 12- to 20-year-olds, by sex and age group, 1991–2015

Figure 1-3. NSDUH: Prevalence of drinking in the past 30 days among 12- to 20-year-olds, by sex and race/Hispanic origin, 1991–2015

Figure 1-4. NSDUH: Prevalence of drinking in the past 30 days among 12- to 20-year-olds, by school enrollment status, 1991–2015

Figure 1-5. NSDUH: Prevalence of drinking in the past 30 days among 12- to 20-year-olds, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, 2015

Figure 1-6. YRBS: Prevalence of drinking in the past 30 days, by grade and sex, 2015

Figure 2-1. NSDUH and YRBS: Prevalence of initiating drinking at age 12 or younger, by sex, 1991–2015

Figure 2-2. NSDUH: Median age at first use of alcohol among 12- to 20-year-olds, by sex and race/Hispanic origin, 1991–2015 (based on 3-year moving averages)

Figure 2-3. NSDUH: Median age at first use of alcohol among 12- to 20-year-olds, by school enrollment status, 1991–2015

Figure 3-1. NSDUH: Mean frequency of drinking in the past 30 days among current drinkers ages 12–20, by sex and race/Hispanic origin, 1991–2015 (based on 3-year moving averages)

Figure 3-2. NSDUH: Mean frequency of drinking in the past 30 days among current drinkers ages 12–20, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, 2013–2015 (based on 3-year averages)

Figure 4-1. NSDUH: Mean quantity on drinking days in the past 30 days among current drinkers ages 12–20, by sex and race/Hispanic origin, 1991–2015 (based on 3-year moving averages)

Figure 4-2. NSDUH: Mean quantity on drinking days in the past 30 days among current drinkers ages 12–20, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, 2013–2015 (based on 3-year averages)

Figure 5-1. NSDUH: Average total number of drinks in the past 30 days among current drinkers ages 12–20, by sex and race/Hispanic origin, 1991–2015 (based on 3-year moving averages)

Figure 5-2. NSDUH: Average total number of drinks in the past 30 days among current drinkers ages 12–20, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, 2013–2015 (based on 3-year averages)

Figure 6-1. Prevalence of binge drinking, by sex, 1991–2015

Figure 6-2. NSDUH: Prevalence of binge drinking in the past 30 days among 12- to 20-year-olds, by sex and age group, 1991–2015

Figure 6-3. NSDUH: Prevalence of binge drinking in the past 30 days among 12- to 20-year-olds, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, 2015

Figure 6-4. YRBS: Prevalence of binge drinking in the past 30 days, by grade and sex, 2015

Figure 6-5. NSDUH: Mean number of binge drinking days in the past 30 days among current drinkers ages 12–20, by sex and race/Hispanic origin, 1991–2015 (based on 3-year moving averages)

Figure 6-6. NSDUH: Mean number of binge drinking days in the past 30 days among current drinkers ages 12–20, by school enrollment status, 1991–2015 (based on 3-year moving averages)

Figure 6-7. NSDUH: Frequency of binge drinking in the past 30 days among current drinkers ages 12–20, by category (0 days, 1–2 days, 3–4 days, 5+ days), sex, and race/Hispanic origin, 1991–2015

Figure 6-8. MTF: Prevalence of binge drinking (5+ drinks in a row) and extreme binge (high-intensity) drinking (10+ and 15+ drinks in a row) in the past 2 weeks among 12th graders, 2005–2015.

Figure 7. MTF: Prevalence of having been drunk or very high from drinking alcoholic beverages in the past 30 days among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, by sex, 1991–2015

Figure 8-1a. MTF: Percent distribution of disapproval towards taking 1 or 2 drinks nearly every day among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, by sex, 1991–2015

Figure 8-1b. MTF: Percent distribution of disapproval towards having 5 or more drinks once or twice each weekend among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, by sex, 1991–2015

Figure 8-2a. MTF: Percent distribution of perceived risk of harm by having 1 or 2 drinks nearly every day among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, by sex, 1991–2015

Figure 8-2b. MTF: Percent distribution of perceived risk of harm by having 5 or more drinks once or twice each weekend among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, by sex, 1991–2015

Figure 8-2c. NSDUH: Percent distribution of perceived risk of harm by having 5 or more drinks once or twice a week among 12- to 20-year-olds, by sex, 1991–2015

Figure 9-1a. NSDUH: Prevalence of driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or in combination of illegal drugs in the past 12 months among 12- to 20-year-olds, by sex and race/Hispanic origin, 1995–2015

Figure 9-1b. YRBS: Prevalence of driving after drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, by sex and race/Hispanic origin, 1991–2015

Figure 9-1c. YRBS: Prevalence of riding in a car driven by someone who had been drinking in the past 30 days, by sex and race/Hispanic origin, 1991–2015

Figure 9-2. YRBS: Prevalence of drinking alcohol or using drugs before last sexual intercourse, by sex, 1991–2015

Figure 9-3. NSDUH: Prevalence of drinking and activity with risk of physical danger in the past 12 months among 12- to 20-year-olds, by sex, 2000–2015

Figure 9-4. NSDUH: Prevalence of drinking and getting into legal trouble in the past 12 months among 12- to 20-year-olds, by sex, 2000–2015

Figure 9-5. NSDUH: Prevalence in the past 12 months of problems with family or friends caused by drinking among 12- to 20-year-olds, by sex, 2000–2015


List of Tables

Table 1-1. NSDUH: Prevalence of drinking in the past 30 days, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, among 12- to 20-year-olds, United States, 1991–2015

Table 1-2. MTF: Prevalence of drinking in the past 30 days, by grade and sex, United States, 1991–2015

Table 1-3. YRBS: Prevalence of drinking in the past 30 days, by grade and sex, United States, 1991–2015

Table 2-1. NSDUH: Median age at first use of alcohol, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, among ever drinkers ages 12–20, United States, 1991–2015 (based on 3-year moving averages)

Table 2-2. NSDUH: Prevalence of initiating drinking at age 12 years or younger, by sex, among ever drinkers ages 12–20, United States, 1991–2015

Table 2-3. YRBS: Prevalence of initiating drinking at age 12 years or younger, by sex, among ever drinkers, United States, 1991–2015

Table 3. NSDUH: Mean frequency of drinking in the past 30 days, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, among current drinkers ages 12–20, United States, 1991–2015 (based on 3-year moving averages)

Table 4. NSDUH: Mean quantity of drinking on drinking days in the past 30 days, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, among current drinkers ages 12–20, United States, 1991–2015 (based on 3-year moving averages)

Table 5. NSDUH: Average total number of drinks in the past 30 days, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, among current drinkers ages 12–20, United States, 1991–2015 (based on 3-year moving averages)

Table 6-1. NSDUH: Prevalence of binge drinking in the past 30 days, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, among 12- to 20-year-olds, United States, 1991–2015

Table 6-2. MTF: Prevalence of binge drinking in the past 2 weeks, by grade and sex, United States, 1991–2015

Table 6-3. YRBS: Prevalence of binge drinking in the past 30 days, by grade and sex, United States, 1991–2015

Table 6-4. NSDUH: Mean number of binge drinking days in the past 30 days, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, among current drinkers ages 12–20, United States, 1991–2015 (based on 3-year moving averages)

Table 7. MTF: Prevalence of having been drunk or very high from drinking alcoholic beverages in the past 30 days, by grade and sex, United States, 1991–2015

Table 8. NSDUH: Prevalence of driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or in combination of illegal drugs in the past 12 months, by age, sex, and race/Hispanic origin, among 12- to 20-year-olds, United States, 1995–2015


Appendix

Appendix A. Differences Among Survey Data Sources

 

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