Underage Drinking: What Parents Need To Know
By Kristin Blank
Data from SAMHSA’s recent report
on underage drinking offer parents,
teachers, and other concerned adults
information on where drinking occurs
and how young people obtain alcohol.
The 110-page report, Underage
Alcohol Use: Findings from the 2002-2006 National
Surveys on Drug Use and Health, also includes statistics on prevalence, trends,
and sociodemographic and geographic differences. The
findings are from SAMHSA’s 2002 to 2006 National
Surveys on Drug Use and Health.
More than 5,000 people under
age 21 die as a result of drinking
alcohol every year in the United
States, according to findings cited
in the report.
Where Young People Drink
Overall, a majority of underage drinkers in 2006
reported that when they last used alcohol they were
either in someone else’s home (53.4 percent)
or their own home (30.3 percent).
The next most popular drinking locations for this
age group were at a restaurant, bar, or club (9.4
percent); in a car or vehicle (5.5 percent); or at
a park, on a beach, or in a parking lot (4.8 percent).
Underage drinkers whose last drinking occasion was
at someone else’s home consumed an average of
4.9 drinks, while those whose last
drinking occasion was at their own homes consumed
an average of 4.0 drinks.
How Youth Obtain Alcohol
Among all underage current drinkers, 31.0 percent
paid for the alcohol the last time they drank, including
9.3 percent who purchased the alcohol themselves and
21.6 percent who gave money to someone else to purchase
it. The remaining 69.0 percent of underage drinkers
did not pay for the alcohol on their last drinking
The most common sources of alcohol among underage
current drinkers vary substantially
by age group.
(See the chart below for details.)
Common Sources by Age Group
The findings from this SAMHSA study are being incorporated
into the Underage Drinking Prevention campaign, an
ongoing public outreach effort by the Office of the
Surgeon General, SAMHSA, and the Ad Council encouraging
parents to speak with their children early and often
about the negative effects of underage drinking.
The campaign provides parents with valuable information
about the problem of underage drinking as well as
tips for how to talk to their children about it. Further
information about the campaign can be obtained at
The report is available for free download at http://oas.samhsa.gov/underage2k8/toc.htm.
For information about SAMHSA’s efforts to combat
underage drinking, read SAMHSA
« Parent Awareness of Youth Substance Abuse Varies
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