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Drinking Rates Remain Unchanged in the U.S.

About 1/5 Are Binge Drinkers

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Updated October 25, 2013

Beer Drinker

Beer Drinker

Clipart.com
Updated October 25, 2013
The latest government statistics show a decrease in the use of illicit drugs over the past four years, but the number of people who consume alcohol remains essentially the same, with more than half of everyone over the age of 12 reported as drinkers.

Each year the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration sponsors the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in which 67,500 persons are interviewed. The NSDUH is the government's primary source of information about the use of illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco in the general population of the United States.

The 2006 survey indicated very little change in drinking habits, with about half of the population (50.9 percent) reported as alcohol drinkers, about one-fifth binge drinkers and about seven percent listed as heavy drinkers.

Binge Drinkers and Heavy Drinkers

Binge drinking is considered having five or more drinks one occasion at least once in the past 30 days. According to the survey results, 23 percent, or about 57 million people over age 12, met that definition.

Heavy drinking is considered binge drinking five or more times a month. The 2006 NSDUH survey indicated that an estimated 6.9 percent of the population, about 17 million people over age 12, were heavy drinkers.

Drinking Rates Higher for Young Adults

For young abuts, between the ages of 18 and 25, the rate of binge drinking and heavy drinking is almost double that of the general population. In 2006, the rate of binge drinking in this group was 42.2 percent and the rate of heavy drinking was 15.6 percent.

The survey also showed that the rate of binge drinking in adolescent drinkers -- those ages 12 to 17 -- is about 10.3 percent, with the percentage of heavy drinkers at 2.4 percent. All of these rates are basically unchanged from the 2005 NSDUH results.

Drinking Rates by Racial Groups

For underaged drinkers, those age 12 to 20, the survey indicated past month alcohol use among these groups as:

  • 18.6 percent among blacks.
  • 19.7 percent among Asians.
  • 25.3 percent among Hispanics.
  • 27.5 percent among those reporting two races.
  • 31.2 percent among American Indians or Alaska Natives.
  • 32.3 percent among whites.

Of the above groups, the only significant change since 2005 was with American Indians or Alaska Natives, who reported only a 21.7 percentage of drinkers in 2005.

Pregnant Women Drinking Less

Here are other findings of the 2006 NSDUH:

  • Binge drinking rates for underage drinkers have remained unchanged since 2002, with about 28.3 percent of those aged 12 to 20 reported as drinkers and 19 percent binge drinkers. About 6.2 percent were heavy drinkers.

  • Binge drinking during the first trimester of pregnancy dropped from 10.6 percent to 4.6 percent for women aged 15 to 44. This is the only group that saw a decrease in drinking rates.

  • An estimated 12.4 percent of persons aged 12 or older reported driving under the influence in the past 12 months. That percentage corresponds to about 30.5 million people.

Sources:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "Results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings" Sept. 6, 2007.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "New National Survey Reveals Drug Use Down Among Adolescents in U.S." Sept. 6, 2007.

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