Go to the Table of Contents

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 (51.8 percent) of Americans aged 12 or older reported being past month drinkers of alcohol in 2009-2010, which was similar to the 2008-2009 rate (51.7 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.

3.1  Alcohol Use

In 2009-2010, the rate of past month alcohol use among persons aged 12 or older ranged from 26.4 percent in Utah to 64.1 percent in Wisconsin (Table B.9). The highest rates of past month alcohol use occurred in the 18 to 25 age group, with Massachusetts having the highest rate (74.3 percent). Five States ranked in the top fifth for all three age groups (12 to 17, 18 to 25, and 26 or older) and among persons aged 12 or older: Colorado, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wisconsin (Figures 3.1 to 3.4). Among persons aged 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, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) (Figure 3.1).

Arizona was the only State with a decrease in past month alcohol use among persons aged 12 or older from 2008-2009 to 2009-2010 (from 51.2 to 48.1 percent) (Table C.9). Six States showed decreases in past month alcohol use in the 12 to 17 year old age group: Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, and Ohio. There were no increases in past month alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 17. Decreases also were observed among youths in the Midwest census region and in their national rate.

Nationally, the rate of past month use of alcohol among persons aged 12 to 20 (underage alcohol use) in 2009-2010 was 26.7 percent (similar to the rate of 26.8 percent from 2008-2009). Underage alcohol use ranged from 16.5 percent in Utah to 34.6 percent in Vermont (Table B.12) in 2009-2010. Four States displayed decreases in alcohol use in this age group from 2008-2009 to 2009-2010: Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, and North Dakota (Table C.12). Virginia showed an increase. Rates remained unchanged in all other States over this time period.

3.2  Binge Alcohol Use

Nationally, almost a quarter (23.4 percent) of persons aged 12 or older participated in binge use of alcohol in the past month in 2009-2010, which was similar to the 2008-2009 rate (23.5 percent) (Table C.10). In 2009-2010, past month binge use of alcohol among persons aged 12 or older ranged from 13.2 percent in Utah to 29.9 percent in Wisconsin (Table B.10). Four 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 aged 12 or older: Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, and Wisconsin (Figures 3.5 to 3.8). The highest rates of binge use of alcohol occurred among young adults aged 18 to 25 (41.2 percent nationally). North Dakota and Vermont (51.3 percent) had the highest rate in this age group, between 1.5 and 2 times the highest rate among persons aged 26 or older (Wisconsin at 28.8 percent) and about 4 times the highest rate among youths aged 12 to 17 (Montana at 12.7 percent) (Table B.10).

Two States showed decreases in binge alcohol use between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 among persons aged 12 or older: Florida (from 21.9 to 20.7 percent) and Ohio (from 25.3 to 23.6 percent) (Table C.10). Idaho (from 20.1 to 21.9 percent) and Washington (from 21.4 to 23.9 percent) showed increases. The national rate of binge alcohol use decreased among youths aged 12 to 17 (from 8.9 to 8.4 percent), and a decrease also was observed in the Midwest region (from 9.4 to 8.7 percent) and South region (from 8.0 to 7.5 percent) for this age group. Among 12 to 17 year olds at the State level, decreases were observed in Indiana, North Dakota, Ohio, and Oregon; rates in the other States remained unchanged among this age group.

Nationally, the rate of underage binge alcohol use was 17.5 percent (similar to the rate of 17.9 percent from 2008-2009) (Table C.12). In 2009-2010, Utah (12.7 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 (24.2 percent) (Table B.12). Of the 10 States that ranked in the highest fifth for past month underage use of alcohol, 8 States also ranked in the highest fifth for past month underage binge use of alcohol: Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Vermont (Figures 3.13 and 3.14). Eight States showed decreases in underage binge use of alcohol: Colorado, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, and South Dakota (Table C.12). No States showed an increase among this age group.

3.3  Perceptions of Risk of Binge Alcohol Use

In 2009-2010, 42.6 percent of persons aged 12 or older perceived a great risk of binge drinking, an increase from the rate of 41.8 percent in 2008-2009 (Table C.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 2009-2010. Of the 10 States with the highest rates of binge use of alcohol in 2009-2010 among persons aged 12 or older, 6 States also had the lowest perceived risk of binge drinking for the population aged 12 or older: Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin (Figures 3.5 and 3.9). Among persons aged 12 or older, South Dakota had the lowest percentage (33.6 percent) perceiving a great risk of drinking five or more drinks of alcohol on a single occasion, while Utah had the highest rate at 50.8 percent (Table B.11).

Between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, a decrease in the perception of the risk of binge drinking among persons 12 or older was seen in Montana (from 39.1 to 36.6 percent), and increases were seen in Arkansas, California, Florida, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania (Table C.11). Increases were also seen in the Northeast, South, and West regions. Among youths aged 12 to 17, an increase was seen in Pennsylvania (from 36.2 to 38.1 percent), while all other States remained unchanged in that age group. Among 18 to 25 year olds, the rate decreased in Montana (from 29.7 to 26.6 percent).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

Figure 3.1 Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.1

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

Figure 3.2 Alcohol Use in Past Month among Youths Aged 12 to 17, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.2

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

Figure 3.3 Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 18 to 25, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.3

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

Figure 3.4 Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 26 or Older, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.4

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

Figure 3.5 Binge Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.5

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

Figure 3.6 Binge Alcohol Use in Past Month among Youths Aged 12 to 17, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.6

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

Figure 3.7 Binge Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 18 to 25, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.7

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

Figure 3.8 Binge Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 26 or Older, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.8

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

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 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.9

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

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 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.10

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

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 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.11

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

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 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.12

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

Figure 3.13 Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 12 to 20, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.13

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Below is a map; click here for the text describing this map.

Figure 3.14 Binge Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 12 to 20, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2009 and 2010 NSDUHs

Figure 3.14

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2009 and 2010 (Revised March 2012).

Go to Top of PageGo to the Table of Contents

This is the page footer.

This page was last updated on June 25, 2012.