The Prevalence of Alcohol Use in the United States

Underage Drinking

Alcohol remains the most commonly used drug among youth in the U.S. According to a nationwide study of high school students, nearly 1 in 3 report having drank some alcohol in the past month and 1 in 7 reported binge drinking. [USAPA1] A study of youth aged 12 to 17 found that 5% reported binge drinking in the past month, up slightly from 2016. Among individuals aged 18 to 20, 25% reported binge drinking.

Of all of the alcohol consumed in the U.S., more than 10% is consumed by people under the age of 21. [USAPA2] Additionally, when young adults drink, they generally drink more than adults per drinking occasion. [USAPA3]

Binge Drinking

A little over 26% of adults aged 18 and older reported binge drinking in the past year, while nearly 7% reported heavy alcohol use. [USAPA4] Surveys have also shown that 1 in 6 adults report binge drinking approximately four times per month, for a total of 467 drinks per binge drinkers per year. This equates to 117 billion total binge drinks consumed by adults each year. [USAPA5] 

Though men binge drink at greater rates than women, that trend is changing. Between 2002 and 2013, the percent of women reporting high-risk drinking increased by 58%, compared to a 16% increase among men.  [USAPA6] 14 million women in the U.S. binge drink approximately three times per month; this equates to 1 in 8 women and 1 in 5 high school girls. [USAPA7]

Underage Drinking

Among people aged 12 and older, 6% report heavy alcohol use in the past month. In 2017, nearly 10% of young adults aged 18-25 reported heavy alcohol use, nearly double the population-level rate. This number increases to 12% among those aged 21-25, suggesting this is a particularly at-risk time for heavy alcohol consumption as the percentage of people reporting heavy alcohol use drops back to 6% among those 26 and older. [USAPA8] 


USAPA1 - Kann L, McManus T, Harris WA, et al. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2017. MMWR Surveill Summ 2018;67(No. SS-8):1–114.

USAPA2 - Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Drinking in America: Myths, Realities, and Prevention Policy External. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2005.

USAPA3 - Bonnie RJ and O’Connell ME, editors. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective ResponsibilityExternal. Committee on Developing a Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2004.



USAPA5 - Kanny D, Naimi TS, Liu Y, Lu H, Brewer RD. Annual Total Binge Drinks Consumed by U.S. Adults, 2015External. Am J Prev Med 2018;54:486–496.

USAPA6- Grant, B. F., Chou, S. P., Saha, T. D., Pickering, R. P., Kerridge, B. T., Ruan, W. J., ... & Hasin, D. S. (2017). Prevalence of 12-month alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and DSM-IV alcohol use disorder in the United States, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. JAMA psychiatry, 74(9), 911-923.