Academic journal article Alcohol Health & Research World

Alcohol Use among Adolescents

Academic journal article Alcohol Health & Research World

Alcohol Use among Adolescents

Article excerpt

Several ongoing national surveys, including the Monitoring the Future study, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, are investigating the drinking behaviors of adolescents in the United States. These studies have found that the majority of adolescents under the age of 18 have consumed alcohol, although the minimum legal drinking age is 21. Drinking rates may even have increased in recent years in some age groups. No substantial differences exist among various sociodemographic subgroups with respect to drinking rates, although alcohol consumption generally is lowest among AfricanAmericans and highest among whites. Moreover, alcohol consumption increases sharply throughout adolescence. Various attitudinal and behavioral factors, such as religious involvement, truancy, and average grade level, also influence adolescents' drinking behaviors. Almost two-thirds of 12th graders who report consuming alcohol experience at least one alcohol-related problem. Most adolescents drink to experience the pleasurable effects of alcohol, such as having a good time with friends. KEY WORDS: AOD use behavior; adolescent; survey; prevalence; trend; demographic characteristics; minimum drinking age; attitude toward AOD; illicit drug; interpersonal AODR (alcohol and other drug related) problems; heavy AOD use; educational environment; causes of AODU (alcohol and other drug use); AOD associated consequences; high school student

any American adolescents use alcohol, even though the minimum legal drinking age is 21 This article describes me extent and nature of alcohol use among American adolescents. In addition, the article provides information on trends in, self-reported reasons for, and consequences of adolescent alcohol use. The article draws on information from the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which are described in the following section. The discussion emphasizes, however, findings from the MTF study (unless otherwise indicated, those findings are summarized in Johnston et al. 1998).


Several major ongoing national surveillance systems collect and evaluate information on alcohol use patterns among adolescents:

*The MTF study, which is conducted under a research grant to the University of Michigan from the National Institute on Drug Abuse

*The NHSDA, which is conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

*The YRBS, which is conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The MTF study, which uses a school-based sample, has conducted annual surveys of nationally representative samples of high school seniors since 1975 and of 8th and 10th grade students since 1991. It surveys about among 9th graders to 84 percent among 12th graders (CDC 1998).

Despite the consistent finding that relatively few Americans are complete abstainers by their late teens, substantial differences exist among the surveys with respect to the specific rates of alcohol consumption for the various age groups. Some of the differences may result from the specific design of each survey. For example, some studies include only students who are still in school (e.g., the MTF study), whereas other studies (e.g., the NHSDA) also include school dropouts, who may be at higher risk for alcohol use. Furthermore, the MTF study and the YRBS are school based, whereas the NHSDA is conducted in a home setting where parents may be present, which may lead to greater reluctance to report deviant behavior. Differences among the surveys in the wording of the questions and in the way in which the survey is administered (i.e., interview versus self-administered questionnaire) also may affect the outcome and account for some of the discrepancies in the findings obtained.

Differences Among Demographic Subgroups

The MTF study assesses both the prevalence of alcohol use and the prevalence of getting drunk among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. …

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