Recently released alcohol related numbers

The government made available this week new figures from the National Survey on Drug Use for 2004-2005. This survey contains the most recent alcohol use and abuse numbers, that serve as a reminder of drinking practices around the country. Before assessing what the minute shifts may mean, let’s recap some of the pertinent statistics:


For “Minors”:

  • Alcohol use decreased slightly among youths aged 12 to 17 from 17.7 percent in 2003-2004 to 17.1 percent in 2004-2005.
  • In 2005, about 10.8 million persons aged 12 to 20 (28.2 percent of this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Nearly 7.2 million (18.8 percent) were binge drinkers, and 2.3 million (6.0 percent) were heavy drinkers. These figures have remained essentially the same since the 2002 survey

For Young adults:

· Young adults aged 18 to 22 enrolled full time in college were more likely than their peers not enrolled full time (i.e., part-time college students and persons not currently enrolled in college) to use alcohol in the past month (64.4 v. 53.2), binge drink (44.8 v. 38.3), and drink heavily (19.5 v. 13.).

· The pattern of higher rates of current alcohol use, binge alcohol use, and heavy alcohol use among full-time college students than the rates for others aged 18 to 22 has remained consistent since 2002

For Drunken Driving:

· In 2005, an estimated 13.0 percent of persons aged 12 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year

· This percentage has dropped since 2002, when it was 14.2 percent.

So what does all this, and the rest of the NSDUH data, mean?
First and foremost, binge drinking and heavy drinking slightly increased or did not change. While drinking rates (once in the past month) declined slightly across the board, the more concerning figures (binge drinking and heavy drinking) did not. These figures are an extension of a previous identified movement to the extremes in drinking behavior across the country. This means that increasingly large numbers of people are abstaining from alcohol altogether, just as there is an increase in the rates of heavy drinking. While the effects of this shift (from bell curve to barbell) are less apparent in older age groups where there are significant numbers of moderate drinkers, the same cannot be said for young adults. The polarization of drinking behaviors are quite apparent and appalling on college campuses. This recent blog post on ProgressiveU shows the opinion that most students share regarding college drinking behavior.

A second finding, also pertinent to the previous discussion, is the data suggesting a growing divide in the behaviors of college students relative to their non-college attending peers. While heavy drinking continues to increase amongst college students, the rates in their non-student peers is both lower and steady (See the Graph). Why these differences exist are quite interesting but are not particularly well understood. However, to treat someone as immature, only allows them the justification to act immature. If this holds as an explanation for the differences in consumption behaviors between students and non-student young adults, then it should apply more generally to the differences between America’s infantilized youth under the 21 year-old drinking age relative to the drinking behaviors of young adults across the world.

One Response to “Recently released alcohol related numbers”

  1. Anna Says:

    Perhaps part of the reason that 18- to 21-year-olds who are not full-time college students have more healthy drinking habits than their age-mates who are enrolled in college is that they have to get up and go to work. It’s very easy to have a schedule in college that allows every weekend to start on Thursday afternoon, where no class starts before 2 pm, and most classes are easy enough to pass without spending a whole lot of regular time studying. If the kids had to be in class at 8 a.m. every morning, they might drink a little less every night.