USA: Pervasive Alcohol Harm Starts Early
The SAMHSA national report summarizes key findings from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) for indicators of substance use and mental health among people aged 12 years old or older in the civilian, non-institutionalized population of the United States.
NSDUH collects information on past month alcohol use, binge alcohol use, and heavy alcohol use. For men, binge alcohol use is defined in NSDUH as consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days. For women, binge alcohol use is defined as consuming four or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days.
Heavy alcohol use is defined as binge use on 5 or more days in the past 30 days.
Alcohol Use: Nearly half go alcohol-free
Almost half of the population 12-years of age and older (49.3%) live free from alcohol use.
In 2016, 136.7 million Americans aged 12 or older reported current use of alcohol, which corresponds to alcohol use in the past month by slightly more than half (50.7%) of people aged 12 or older. This group includes 65.3 million who reported binge alcohol use in the past month and 16.3 million who reported heavy alcohol use in the past month.
Binge and heavy alcohol use
In 2016, an estimated 65.3 million people aged 12 or older were binge alcohol users in the past 30 days. Almost a quarter of people older than 12 years of age in the United States are current binge alcohol users (24.2%).
About 1.2 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 were past month binge alcohol users, which corresponds to 4.9% of adolescents. Thus, about 1 in 20 adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 2016 were current binge alcohol users.
An estimated 38.4% of young adults aged 18 to 25 were binge alcohol users in the past month, which corresponds to about 13.3 million young adults. Stated another way, about 2 out of 5 young adults in 2016 were current binge alcohol users.
About a quarter (24.2%) of adults aged 26 or older were current binge alcohol users. This percentage corresponds to about 50.9 million adults in this age group who were binge alcohol users.
The estimate of 16.3 million people aged 12 or older in 2016 who were heavy alcohol users in the past month (Figure 9) represents 6% of the population aged 12 or older (Figure 11).
Early onset and binge alcohol use in minors
In the United States, all 50 federal states and the District of Columbia currently prohibit possession of alcoholic beverages by individuals below the age of 21, and most prohibit underage consumption (i.e., consumption of alcoholic beverages prior to the age of 21).
Nevertheless, in 2016, about 1 in 5 underage individuals aged 12 to 20 were current alcohol users. About 7.3 million people aged 12 to 20 reported consuming alcohol in the past month, which represents 19.3% of 12 to 20 year olds, and including 4.5 million who reported binge alcohol use and 1.1 million who reported heavy alcohol use.
That means that about three fifths of underage current alcohol users (62.5%) were binge alcohol users, and about 1 in 7 were heavy alcohol users (14.7%).
Pervasive alcohol harm, even in minors
An estimated 15.1 million people aged 12 or older had an alcohol use disorder in 2016, which represents 5.6% of people aged 12 or older.
2% of adolescents in the United States, or an estimated 488,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 2016 had a past year alcohol use disorder.
Approximately 3.7 million young adults aged 18 to 25 in 2016 had an alcohol use disorder in the past year. This number of young adults with an alcohol use disorder represents 10.7% of young adults.
Approximately 10.9 million adults aged 26 or older had an alcohol use disorder in the past year, which represents 5.2% of the adults in this age group.
The NSDUH questionnaire underwent a partial redesign in 2015 to improve the quality of the NSDUH data and to address the changing needs of policymakers and researchers. For measures that started a new baseline in 2015, estimates are discussed only for 2016.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 17-5044, NSDUH Series H-52). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/