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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2016

Alcohol Use

Alcohol is the most common illicit substance used during adolescence. Heavy use is associated with negative outcomes such as problems in school and the workplace, being involved in fights, criminal activities, or motor vehicle crashes, resulting in injuries as well as death.64 Binge drinking is a common pattern of alcohol abuse defined here as five or more alcoholic beverages in a row or during a single occasion in the previous two weeks, is a common pattern of alcohol abuse. Early onset of binge drinking may be especially problematic, potentially increasing the likelihood of negative outcomes including alcohol use disorder. While overall trends of binge drinking continue to decline among adolescents, examining alcohol use by race and ethnicity can help us to better understand who is at greatest risk for negative consequences.

Figure 21: Percentage of 12th-grade students who reported having five or more alcoholic beverages in a row in the past two weeks by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2015
Percentage of 12th-grade students who reported having five or more alcoholic beverages in a row in the past two weeks by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2015

NOTE: Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately.

SOURCE: National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monitoring the Future Survey.

  • In 2015, the percentages of 10th-, and 12th-grade students who reported binge drinking were the lowest since the survey began in 1980.
  • In 2015, 5 percent of 8th graders reported binge drinking—down from 11 percent in 1991, the first year the survey reported on 8th and 10th grade alcohol use. Among, 10th graders, there was a decline from 21 percent in 1991 to 11 percent in 2015.
  • Twelfth graders were first surveyed in 1980 and have also reported a long-term decline from 41 percent in 1980 to 17 percent in 2015.
  • Among 12th grade students, 21 percent of White, non-Hispanics and 19 percent of Hispanics reported binge drinking. This was two times the rate of Black, non-Hispanic 12th-graders that reported binge drinking (10 percent) in 2015.
  • Among 12th graders, long-term trends of reported binge drinking have declined among White, non-Hispanics; Black, non-Hispanics; and Hispanics. Since 1980, reported use among White, non-Hispanics declined from 44 percent in that year to 21 percent in 2015. Among Black, non-Hispanics, binge drinking dropped from 18 percent in 1980 to 10 percent in 2015 and among Hispanics binge drinking decreased from 33 percent in 1980 to 19 percent in 2015.

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64 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. A Developmental Perspective on Underage Alcohol Use. Alcohol Alert. July 2009: No. 78. Retrieved from http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA78/AA78.pdf