Adolescent Alcohol Use Statistics: Key Findings from the 2000 National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (NHSDA)

Conducted since 1971, NHSDA is an annual survey of the United States population age 12 and older. The survey measures the prevalence of illicit drug, alcohol, and tobacco use in America. In 2000, more than 70,000 people were interviewed, including residents of households, noninstitutional groups (i.e., individuals residing in shelters, rooming houses, dormitories), and civilians living on military bases.

Key Findings:

  • 41.7% of youth age 12 to 17 report using alcohol in their lifetime, 33% reported past year use and more than 16% report using alcohol in the past month.
  • For current alcohol use, binge drinking, and heavy alcohol use, 21 is the age of peak prevalence.
  • The prevalence of current alcohol use escalates as youth grow older, from 2.4% at age 12 to a peak of 65.2% for persons 21 years old.
  • About 9.7 million persons age 12 to 20 report drinking alcohol in the month prior to the survey. Of these, 6.6 million were binge drinkers and 2.1 million were heavy drinkers.
Any Alcohol Use, "Binge" Alcohol Use, and Heavy Alcohol Use in the Past Month by Young People Age 12-20*
Age Any Alcohol Use "Binge" Alcohol Use Heavy Alcohol Use
12 2.4% 1.0% 0.1%
13 6.7 3.0 0.3
14 11.1 6.0 1.0
15 20.4 12.6 2.5
16 26.4 17.9 4.9
17 32.1 22.9 7.3
18 42.1 30.9 10.3
19 50.0 34.8 13.6
20 55.6 38.5 14.2

* The National Household Survey of Drug Use defines "binge" use as five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey and heavy use as five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least five different days in the past 30 days.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2001). Summary of Findings from the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. DHHS Publication Number (SMA) 01-3549. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Online at:

CSPI homepage Alcohol Home