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April 1, 2010

State Estimates of Underage Alcohol Use and Self-Purchase of Alcohol

In Brief
  • Combined 2006 to 2008 data indicate that 27.6 percent of persons aged 12 to 20 drank alcohol in the past month
  • Rates of underage past month alcohol use were among the lowest in Utah (13.7 percent) and among the highest in North Dakota (40.6 percent) and Vermont (40.4 percent)
  • Approximately 8.6 percent of past month drinkers aged 12 to 20 purchased their own alcohol the last time they drank
  • The percentages of past month drinkers aged 12 to 20 who bought their own alcohol were among the lowest in Alaska (3.1 percent) and New Mexico (3.7 percent) and among the highest in Louisiana and the District of Columbia (both at 18.8 percent)

Alcohol use constitutes one of the most serious public health issues for young people in the United States, creating negative health, social, and economic consequences for adolescents, their families, communities, and the Nation as a whole.1 Reducing access to alcohol is a critical element in the prevention of underage alcohol consumption and is particularly important to the States, which have had authority for alcohol control since 1933. All 50 States and the District of Columbia currently prohibit possession of alcoholic beverages by persons younger than 21, and most prohibit underage purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages.2 Despite the efforts to limit access, underage drinkers still are able to obtain alcohol, and many are able to purchase alcohol themselves.3 Information about underage alcohol use at the State level can provide States with vital data to inform enforcement, educational, and prevention efforts.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) asks respondents to report on their alcohol use in the past 30 days. Past month alcohol users are asked if they paid for the last alcoholic beverage that they drank; if they paid for it, they were asked if they purchased the alcohol beverage themselves or if they gave someone else the money to buy it for them.

This issue of The NSDUH Report presents estimates of past month alcohol use among persons aged 12 to 20 and estimates of self-purchase of alcohol among past month drinkers by State (including the District of Columbia).4 All findings are annual averages based on combined 2006 to 2008 NSDUH data. State estimates are rank ordered from highest to lowest and divided into quintiles (fifths). States with the highest estimates fall into the top quintile and are shown in red; States with the lowest estimates are in the bottom quintile and are shown in blue.5


State Estimates of Underage Past Month Alcohol Use

More than one quarter (27.6 percent) of persons aged 12 to 20 drank alcohol in the past month. Rates of past month alcohol use were among the lowest in Utah (13.7 percent) and among the highest in North Dakota (40.6 percent) and Vermont (40.4 percent) (Figure 1). Of the 10 States with the highest rates of past month alcohol use, 6 were in the Northeast (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont). Of the 10 States with the lowest rates of past month alcohol use, 6 were in the South (Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee).


Figure 1. Percentages of Past Month Alcohol Use among Persons Aged 12 to 20, by State: 2006 to 2008
This is a map comparing percentages of past month alcohol use among persons aged 12 to 20, by state: 2006 to 2008. Accessible table located below this figure.


Figure 1 Table. Percentages of Past Month Alcohol Use among Persons Aged 12 to 20, by State: 2006 to 2008
Percentages of Persons
32.1% to 40.6% 29.3% to 32.0% 27.8% to 29.2% 24.5% to 27.4% 13.7% to 24.4%
Connecticut Colorado Arizona Alabama Georgia
District of Columbia Kansas Delaware Alaska Hawaii
Massachusetts Louisiana Florida Arkansas Idaho
Montana Maine Illinois California Indiana
North Dakota Nebraska Iowa Kentucky Mississippi
New Hampshire Ohio Maryland Missouri North Carolina
New York Oregon Michigan Nevada Oklahoma
Rhode Island South Dakota Minnesota Texas South Carolina
Vermont Washington New Jersey Virginia Tennessee
Wyoming Wisconsin New Mexico West Virginia Utah
    Pennsylvania    
Source: 2006 to 2008 SAMHSA National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUHs).


State Estimates of Underage Past Month Drinkers Who Purchased the Last Alcohol They Drank

Approximately 8.6 percent of past month drinkers aged 12 to 20 purchased their own alcohol the last time they drank. The rates of past month drinkers aged 12 to 20 buying their own alcohol were among the lowest in Alaska (3.1 percent) and New Mexico (3.7 percent) and among the highest in Louisiana and the District of Columbia (both at 18.8 percent) (Figure 2). Six of the States in the top quintile were in the South (Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia). Five of the States in the bottom quintile were in the West (Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington), and four were in the Midwest (Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota).


Figure 2. Percentages of Past Month Drinkers Aged 12 to 20 Who Purchased Their Own Alcohol the Last Time They Drank, by State: 2006 to 2008
This is a map comparing percentages of past month drinkers aged 12 to 20 who purchased their own alcohol the last time they drank, by state: 2006 to 2008. Accessible table located below this figure.


State Estimates of Underage Alcohol Use and Self-Purchase of Alcohol
Figure 2 Table. Percentages of Past Month Drinkers Aged 12 to 20 Who Purchased Their Own Alcohol the Last Time They Drank, by State: 2006 to 2008
Percentages of Persons
10.6% to 18.8% 8.4% to 10.1% 7.4% to 8.3% 6.1% to 7.2% 3.1% to 6.0%
Alabama Delaware Arizona California Alaska
District of Columbia Florida Illinois Colorado Arkansas
Connecticut Georgia Kansas Idaho Hawaii
Louisiana Iowa Kentucky Maine Indiana
Maryland Massachussets Michigan Minnesota Nebraska
Mississippi Missouri North Carolina New Hampshire New Mexico
New Jersey Montana Ohio Nevada North Dakota
New York Oklahoma Pennsylvania Tennessee Oregon
Rhode Island Texas Virginia Vermont South Dakota
South Carolina West Virginia Wyoming Wisconsin Washington
Utah        
Source: 2006 to 2008 SAMHSA National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUHs).


Discussion

Underage drinking is a serious and persistent problem in the United States. Although there is wide variation in underage drinking and self-purchase of alcohol by underage drinkers among States, no State is immune from these problems. Highlighting the prevalence of these problems in each State can help Federal, State, and local policymakers plan for and allocate resources to combat underage drinking, including efforts to reduce the availability of alcohol to young people, raise awareness about underage drinking and its consequences, and develop effective approaches to prevent underage drinking.



End Notes
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006, January). A comprehensive plan for preventing and reducing underage drinking. Rockville, MD: Author. [Available as a PDF at http://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/more.aspx; see http://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/media/underagedrinking/pdf/underagerpttocongress.pdf]
2 Alcohol Policy Information System, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2009, September 28). State profiles of underage drinking laws. Retrieved January 11, 2010, from http://www.alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov/State_Profiles_of_Underage_Drinking_Laws.html
3 Pemberton, M. R., Colliver, J. D., Robbins, T. M., & Gfroerer, J. C. (2008). Underage alcohol use: Findings from the 2002-2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (DHHS Publication No. SMA 08-4333, Analytic Series A-30). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. [Available at http://samhsa.gov/data/analytic.htm]
4 This report uses State estimates based solely on the weighted sample for each State and the District of Columbia (i.e., direct State estimates) and does not use the small area estimation (SAE) methodology. Therefore, estimates in this report should not be compared with any previous NSDUH reports that use the SAE methodology, such as the following: Hughes, A., Sathe, N., & Spagnola, K. (2009). State estimates of substance use from the 2006-2007 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (DHHS Publication No. SMA 09-4362, NSDUH Series H-35). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. [Available at http://samhsa.gov/data/states.cfm]
5 Estimates were divided into quintiles for ease of presentation and discussion, but differences between States and quintiles were not tested for statistical significance. In some instances, more than 10 or fewer than 10 States were assigned to each quintile because of ties in the estimated prevalence rates.


Suggested Citation
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (April 1, 2010). The NSDUH Report: State Estimates of Underage Alcohol Use and Self-Purchase of Alcohol. Rockville, MD.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The 2006 to 2008 data used in this report are based on information obtained from 94,176 persons aged 12 to 20. The survey collects data by administering questionnaires to a representative sample of the population through face-to-face interviews at their place of residence.

The NSDUH Report is prepared by the Office of Applied Studies (OAS), SAMHSA, and by RTI International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. (RTI International is a trade name of Research Triangle Institute.)

Information on the most recent NSDUH is available in the following publication:

Office of Applied Studies. (2009). Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National findings (DHHS Publication No. SMA 09-4434, NSDUH Series H-36). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Also available online: http://oas.samhsa.gov.

The NSDUH Report is published periodically by the Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). All material appearing in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission from SAMHSA. Additional copies of this report or other reports from the Office of Applied Studies are available online: http://oas.samhsa.gov. Citation of the source is appreciated. For questions about this report, please e-mail: shortreports@samhsa.hhs.gov.

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This page was last updated on January 07, 2010.