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3. Alcohol Use

A number of measures of alcohol use are available from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). This report discusses past month alcohol use, past month binge alcohol use, and the perceived risk of binge alcohol use. Past month alcohol use is the consumption of at least one drink during the past 30 days (includes binge use). Binge alcohol use is defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the 30 days prior to the survey. A "drink" is defined as a can or bottle of beer, a glass of wine or a wine cooler, a shot of liquor, or a mixed drink with liquor in it. Respondents are asked to exclude occasions when only a sip or two is consumed from a drink. Alcohol is the most commonly used substance in the United States. Nationally, about half (51.4 percent) of Americans aged 12 or older reported being past month drinkers of alcohol in 2007-2008 (see Table B.9 in Appendix B). This number was similar to the rate in 2006-2007 (51.0 percent) (see Table C.9 in Appendix C).

In addition to information on alcohol use among persons aged 12 or older and each of the three age groups (12 to 17, 18 to 25, and 26 or older), estimates of past month alcohol use and binge alcohol use for persons aged 12 to 20 are presented in this report to provide information on underage drinking at the State level. Nationally, both of these underage drinking measures decreased significantly between 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. Changes between 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 also were seen at the State level (Table C.12).

3.1 Alcohol

In 2007-2008, the national rate of past month alcohol use among persons aged 12 or older was 51.4 percent and ranged from a low of 27.8 percent in Utah to a high of 63.1 percent in New Hampshire (Table B.9). The highest rates of past month alcohol use occurred in the 18 to 25 age group, with North Dakota having the highest rate (75.6 percent). Six States ranked in the top fifth for all three age groups (12 to 17, 18 to 25, and 26 or older) and among persons 12 or older: Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin (Figures 3.1 to 3.4). Among persons 12 or older, 8 of the 10 States that were ranked in the bottom fifth for past month alcohol use were from the South (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia) (Figure 3.1).

Four States showed significant increases from 2006-2007 to 2007-2008 in the percentage of persons aged 12 or older who used alcohol in the past month: Illinois, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Oregon (Table C.9). Two States showed a significant decrease in past month alcohol use among persons aged 12 or older: Utah and Wyoming. Ten States showed decreases in past month alcohol use in the 12 to 17 year old age group: Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming; these State decreases led to a decrease in alcohol use nationally and in all 4 census regions. No States showed significant increases in alcohol use among the 12 to 17 year olds.

Past month use of alcohol among persons aged 12 to 20 (underage use of alcohol) ranged from a low of 13.6 percent in Utah to a high of 38.3 percent in Vermont (Table B.12). There was a decrease at the national level in underage alcohol use from 28.1 percent in 2006-2007 to 27.2 percent in 2007-2008. Also, 15 States displayed decreases in alcohol use in that age group: Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming, resulting in a decrease in underage alcohol use in the Northeast, Midwest, and West regions (Table C.12).

3.2 Binge Alcohol Use

Nationally, almost a quarter (23.3 percent) of persons aged 12 or older participated in binge use of alcohol in the past month in 2007-2008 (Table B.10). In 2007-2008, past month binge use of alcohol among persons aged 12 or older ranged from 15.1 percent in Utah to 32.6 percent in North Dakota. Five States were ranked in the top fifth in all three age groups (12 to 17, 18 to 25, and 26 or older) and among persons 12 or older: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin (Figures 3.5 to 3.8). The highest rates of binge use of alcohol occurred among young adults aged 18 to 25. North Dakota (59.5 percent) had the highest rate in this age group, more than double the highest rate among persons aged 26 or older (North Dakota at 29.1 percent) and more than 4 times the highest rate among youths aged 12 to 17 (Connecticut at 13.5 percent) (Table B.10).

Two States showed significant changes in binge alcohol use between 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 among persons 12 or older. Of these, Oregon had a significant increase (from 21.7 to 23.4 percent), whereas Wyoming had a decline (from 26.9 to 24.7 percent) (Table C.10).

In 2007-2008, Utah (11.7 percent) had the lowest rate for past month underage (aged 12 to 20) binge use of alcohol, and North Dakota had the highest rate for this measure (28.0 percent) (Table B.12). Eight of the States that ranked in the highest fifth for past month underage use of alcohol also ranked in the highest fifth for past month underage binge use of alcohol: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Vermont (Figures 3.13 and 3.14).

There was a decrease at the national level for underage use of binge alcohol from 18.8 percent in 2006-2007 to 18.0 percent in 2007-2008. Twelve States showed decreases: Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin; these State decreases led to decreases in underage binge alcohol use in the Northeast, Midwest, and West regions (Table C.12).

3.3 Perceptions of Risk of Binge Alcohol Use

In 2007-2008, 41.9 percent of persons aged 12 or older perceived a great risk of binge drinking (Table B.11). People's perceptions of the risk of binge drinking were moderately and inversely related to their actual rates of binge drinking at the State level in 2007-2008. Of the 10 States with the highest rates of binge use of alcohol in 2007-2008 among persons 12 or older, 5 States also had the lowest perceived risk of binge drinking for the population aged 12 or older: Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin (Figures 3.5 and 3.9). Among persons aged 12 or older, New Hampshire had the lowest percentage (32.9 percent) perceiving a great risk of drinking five or more drinks of alcohol on a single occasion, while Utah had the highest rate at 51.3 percent (Table B.11).

Between 2006-2007 and 2007-2008, there was a decrease in the South region among adults aged 26 or older in the perception of the risk of binge drinking from 46.6 to 45.7 percent (Table C.11). California (decrease from 47.6 to 45.5 percent) and Nevada (increase from 44.4 to 47.9 percent) showed changes in the perceived risk of binge drinking among the States in that age group.

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Figure 3.1 Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.1

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.2 Alcohol Use in Past Month among Youths Aged 12 to 17, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.2

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.3 Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 18 to 25, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.3

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.4 Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 26 or Older, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.4

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.5 Binge Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.5

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.6 Binge Alcohol Use in Past Month among Youths Aged 12 to 17, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.6

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.7 Binge Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 18 to 25, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.7

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.8 Binge Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 26 or Older, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.8

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.9 Perceptions of Great Risk of Having Five or More Drinks of an Alcoholic Beverage Once or Twice a Week among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.9

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.10 Perceptions of Great Risk of Having Five or More Drinks of an Alcoholic Beverage Once or Twice a Week among Youths Aged 12 to 17, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.10

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.11 Perceptions of Great Risk of Having Five or More Drinks of an Alcoholic Beverage Once or Twice a Week among Persons Aged 18 to 25, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.11

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.12 Perceptions of Great Risk of Having Five or More Drinks of an Alcoholic Beverage Once or Twice a Week among Persons Aged 26 or Older, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.12

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.13 Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 12 to 20, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.13

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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Figure 3.14 Binge Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 12 to 20, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2007 and 2008 NSDUHs

Figure 3.14

Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 and 2008.

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