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Alcohol Use - Youth
Alcohol Use - Youth in United States
United States

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Alcohol Use - Youth in depth:

Alcohol Use - Youth by State

Percentage of children ages 12-17 who reported drinking alcohol in the past month

Alcohol Use - Youth Trends

Percentage of children ages 12-17 who reported drinking alcohol in the past month

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Alcohol Use - Youth

About Alcohol Use - Youth

US Value: 8.8%

Top State(s): Utah: 6.6%

Bottom State(s): Montana: 11.8%

Definition: Percentage of children ages 12-17 who reported drinking alcohol in the past month

Data Source and Years: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2019-2020

Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, United Health Foundation,, accessed 2023.

Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among youth in the United States. Each year, 3,900 youth under 21 die from excessive drinking. In 2014, there were more than 57,000 alcohol-related emergency department visits among people ages 12-17. Other risks associated with underage drinking include

  • Academic issues, such as more absences and failing grades. 
  • Legal issues due to behavior like driving under the influence or fighting while drunk. 
  • Depression, ADHD and other mental illnesses. 
  • Impaired judgment, which can lead to engaging in other risky behaviors, such as violence or unprotected sex.
  • An increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder later in life.

The economic cost of underage drinking was $24.3 billion in 2010.

Strategies to prevent alcohol use among youth include:

  • Increasing alcohol taxes. 
  • Regulating and restricting the number and concentration of alcohol stores. 
  • Enforcing the law against selling alcohol to youth. 
  • Implementing commercial host liability laws, which hold liquor establishments legally responsible for any harm caused by or to minors to whom they have sold alcohol.
  • Reducing exposure to alcohol advertising. 
  • Developing community partnerships among schools, law enforcement, health care and public health agencies to prevent excessive alcohol use. 
  • Routinely monitoring the prevalence and intensity of excessive drinking. 

The Community Guide provides additional evidence-based strategies to prevent and reduce excessive alcohol use among youth.

The prevalence of alcohol use is higher among:

  • Girls compared with boys. 
  • Non-Hispanic white youth compared with non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic youth.
  • Older youth ages 16-17 compared with younger youth.

Healthy People 2030 has a goal to reduce the number of adolescents ages 12-17 who reported drinking alcohol in the past month.

Bitsko, Rebecca H., Angelika H. Claussen, Jesse Lichstein, Lindsey I. Black, Sherry Everett Jones, Melissa L. Danielson, Jennifer M. Hoenig, et al. “Mental Health Surveillance Among Children — United States, 2013–2019.” MMWR Supplements 71, no. 2 (February 25, 2022): 1–42.

Jones, Christopher M., Heather B. Clayton, Nicholas P. Deputy, Douglas R. Roehler, Jean Y. Ko, Marissa B. Esser, Kathryn A. Brookmeyer, and Marci Feldman Hertz. “Prescription Opioid Misuse and Use of Alcohol and Other Substances Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019.” MMWR Supplements 69, no. 1 (August 21, 2020): 38–46.

Sacks, Jeffrey J., Katherine R. Gonzales, Ellen E. Bouchery, Laura E. Tomedi, and Robert D. Brewer. “2010 National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 49, no. 5 (November 1, 2015): e73–79.

White, Aaron M., Megan E. Slater, Grace Ng, Ralph Hingson, and Rosalind Breslow. “Trends in Alcohol-Related Emergency Department Visits in the United States: Results from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, 2006 to 2014.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 42, no. 2 (February 2018): 352–59.

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