Alcoholism & Addiction

Report Examines Alcohol Consumption of Underage Drinkers

In the war on drugs and the subsequent war on underage drinking, educators, parents and policymakers are still trying to understand why alcohol continues to be a problem for minors. In order to reverse current trends, a deeper understanding of how young people drink, where they obtain their alcohol and where they drink the alcohol is important.

In a National Survey on Drug Use & Health report: Underage Alcohol Use: Where do Young People Drink?, researchers examined how young people, aged 12 to 20, obtained their last alcoholic drink and where they consumed it. This study is important as in 2006, one in four persons within the 12 to 20 age group drank alcohol in the past month.

To add to these statistics, one in five persons in the same age group drove under the influence of alcohol in the past month. Each year, roughly 1,900 people under the legal drinking age die as a result of alcohol-involved motor vehicle crashes. Research has also shown early initiation of alcohol use is closely associated with the increased likelihood of unprotected sexual intercourse and multiple sex partners.

During the study year–2006–53.4 percent of those aged 12 to 20 who used alcohol drank it at someone else’s home. Another 30 percent drank it in their own home, demonstrating an overall pattern of drinking in the home as the most common location. Drinking in someone else’s home was more common among those aged 16 or 17 and 10.0 percent of 13 year olds last consumed alcohol in a public place.

The peak for drinking in a car peaked at age 16 as 10.1 percent had their most recent drink in a vehicle. An estimated 15.0 percent of those aged 20 drank most recently in a restaurant, bar or club. Roughly 7 to 10 percent of underage drinkers aged 13 to 17 last drank in public places with the percentage decreasing as students got older.

There appeared to be variances in use locations between males and females. For male users, the percentage reporting the most recent drink in a car did not differ significantly by age between 15 and 20, but it did for females. For female drinkers aged 16, an estimated 12.8 percent had their last drink in a vehicle. This rate was 8 times greater than the rate for female drinkers at the age of 20. At age 16, 7.3 percent of male drinkers had their last drink in a vehicle.

Within the 15 year old sect, females were twice as likely as males to have last used alcohol in a public place. For males, alcohol consumption in public places peaked at age 16 before declining.

Among females, consumption in public places declined after 15 and at the age of 17, were more likely to have consumed alcohol in a bar than their male counterparts. Of 20 year old drinkers, 20 percent of females drank in a restaurant, bar or club the last time they used, compared to 10.2 percent of males.

This data provides valuable information to both parents and policymakers as they can draw from this data the locations and ages of higher risk. Interestingly, females tend to pose the greater risk as they are putting themselves in more dangerous situations more of the time.

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