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Alcohol Use among Persons Aged 12 or Older
- Slightly more than half (52.1 percent) of Americans aged 12 or older reported being current drinkers of alcohol in the 2012 survey, which was similar to the rate in 2011 (51.8 percent). This translates to an estimated 135.5 million current drinkers in 2012.
- Nearly one quarter (23.0 percent) of persons aged 12 or older in 2012 were binge alcohol users in the 30 days prior to the survey. This translates to about 59.7 million people. The rate in 2012 was similar to the rate in 2011 (22.6 percent).
- In 2012, rates of current alcohol use were 2.2 percent among persons aged 12 or 13, 11.1 percent of persons aged 14 or 15, 24.8 percent of 16 or 17 year olds, 45.8 percent of those aged 18 to 20, and 69.2 percent of 21 to 25 year olds (Figure 3.1). These estimates were similar to the rates reported in 2011.
- The rate of current alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 17 was 12.9 percent in 2012. Youth binge and heavy drinking rates were 7.2 and 1.3 percent, respectively. These rates were all similar to those reported in 2011 (13.3, 7.4, and 1.5 percent, respectively).
Association with Illicit Drug and Tobacco Use
- As was the case in prior years, the level of alcohol use was associated with illicit drug use in 2012. Among the 17.0 million heavy drinkers aged 12 or older, 31.0 percent were current illicit drug users. Persons who were not current alcohol users were less likely to have used illicit drugs in the past month (4.2 percent) than those who reported (a) current use of alcohol but no binge or heavy use (7.1 percent), (b) binge use but no heavy use (18.5 percent), or (c) heavy use of alcohol (31.0 percent).
- Alcohol consumption levels also were associated with tobacco use. Among heavy alcohol users aged 12 or older, 53.4 percent smoked cigarettes in the past month compared with 16.6 percent of non-binge current drinkers and 16.0 percent of persons who did not drink alcohol in the past month. Smokeless tobacco use and cigar use also were more prevalent among heavy drinkers 12.5 and 17.3 percent, respectively) than among non-binge drinkers (2.1 and 4.2 percent) and persons who were not current alcohol users (2.0 and 2.2 percent).
Underage Alcohol Use
- In 2012, about 9.3 million persons aged 12 to 20 (24.3 percent of this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Approximately 5.9 million (15.3 percent) were binge drinkers, and 1.7 million (4.3 percent) were heavy drinkers.
- Rates of current, binge, and heavy alcohol use among underage persons declined between 2002 and 2012. The rate of current alcohol use among 12 to 20 year olds decreased from 28.8 percent in 2002 to 24.3 percent in 2012. The binge drinking rate declined from 19.3 to 15.3 percent, and the rate of heavy drinking declined from 6.2 to 4.3 percent.
- Rates of current alcohol use increased with age among underage persons. In 2012, 2.2 percent of persons aged 12 or 13, 11.1 percent of persons aged 14 or 15, 24.8 percent of 16 or 17 year olds, and 45.8 percent of 18 to 20 year olds drank alcohol during the 30 daysbefore they were surveyed. This pattern by age has been observed since 2002 (Figure 3.7).
- In 2012, among persons aged 12 to 20, binge drinking was reported by 18.2 percent of whites, 18.1 percent of American Indians or Alaska Natives, 14.2 percent of Hispanics, and 13.8 percent of persons reporting two or more races. Blacks and Asians in this age group were less likely than underage persons in other racial/ethnic groups to report binge drinking (8.5 and 7.8 percent, respectively).
- Across geographic regions in 2012, the rate of current alcohol use among persons aged 12 to 20 was higher in the Northeast (28.3 percent) than in the Midwest (24.4 percent), West (24.5 percent), and South (22.3 percent).