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.





The U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance (USAPA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization translating alcohol policy research into public health practice. The Alliance is committed to ensuring that local and statewide organizations engaging in alcohol policy initiatives have access to the science, resources and technical assistance, including support for organizing efforts, required to engage in informed decisions and actions in translating alcohol policy research into public health practice.

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