— Most Do Not Pay For Alcohol; Few Get Alcohol from Commercial Sources —

WASHINGTON — The vast majority of underage drinkers are obtaining alcohol from non-commercial sources and are drinking it in their home or in someone else’s home, according to a new study released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report, “Underage Alcohol Use: Findings from the 2002-2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health,” marks the first time the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health asked detailed questions about the behavior and social situations involved in underage drinking.

“In far too many instances parents directly enable their children’s underage drinking – in essence encouraging them to risk their health and wellbeing.  Proper parental guidance alone may not be the complete solution to this devastating public health problem – but it is a critical part.,” said Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson, M.D., M.P.H. in releasing the report.

Some of the key findings include:

  •  Ninety percent of underage drinkers were either given alcohol for free or had someone else purchase it for them.
  • Eighty-four percent (84%) of underage drinkers were in their own home or someone else’s home when they had their last drink; 9.4 percent were at a restaurant, bar or club.
  • Among all underage current drinkers, 31 percent paid for the alcohol the last time they drank; including 21.6 percent who gave money to someone else to purchase the alcohol and 9.3 percent who purchased the alcohol themselves.  The remaining 69 percent of underage drinkers did not pay for the alcohol on their last drinking occasion.
  • Of the 9.3 percent of underage individuals who purchased alcohol for themselves, 5.2 percent of individuals bought it at a liquor, convenience or grocery store and 2.8 percent bought it at a restaurant, bar or club.
  • Over 40 percent of underage drinkers received alcohol for free from adults over 21 including 25.8 percent who were given alcohol by an unrelated person aged 21 or older, 6.4 percent who were given alcohol by their parent or guardian,  and 8.3 percent who were given alcohol by another family member aged 21 or older.
  • Past month alcohol use dropped 11 percent (from 7.4 percent in 2002 to 6.6  percent in 2006) for youth aged 12 to 14; declined 8 percent (from 28.3 percent in 2002 to 26.1 percent in 2006) for youth aged 15 to 17; and remained flat at around 51 percent for 18 to 20 year olds in the same time period.

Distilled Spirits Council President Peter Cressy stated that this study’s findings on sources of youth alcohol access are mirrored by research by the National Academy of Sciences and the Federal Trade Commission, which both found that youth primarily obtain alcohol from social sources including parents or adult family members and friends.

“While parents may believe they have no impact on their teens’ behavior, this study once again underscores that parental involvement is key to the decisions underage make about drinking or not drinking,” said Cressy.  “Our country is making important progress in preventing and reducing underage drinking but much more needs to be done.  Parents and the entire community working together can make a difference.”

Cressy stated that over the years, the distilled spirits industry has supported evidenced-based programs and tools aimed at helping parents address alcohol with their teens.  He pointed to the industry’s health care professional education materials for families, the award-winning programs of  The Century Council, www.centurycouncil.org, a not-for-profit organization funded by America’s leading distillers, and the industry’s partnership with the Federal Trade Commission on its campaign to prevent underage drinking, “We Don’t Serve Teens” (www.dontserveteens.com) that is also part of  SAMHSA’s campaign materials.


Links to:

The SAMHSA Press Release