August 2, 2011

It’s Official: America Has A Drinking Problem

According to a US government report, more than half of Americans over the age of 12 drink alcohol, with a quarter of them binge-drinking within the last month.

The report, released last month by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), says that about 52 percent of the 137,436 Americans surveyed between 2008 and 2009 said they drank in the past month. The report also found that one in 14 teens has also used marijuana.

New Hampshire led all 50 states in the prevalence of drinking by 18 to 25 year olds. Almost 75 percent of young adults in the Granite State said they had used alcohol in the past month, according to the report.

The legal drinking age is 21 years old in all 50 states, however, some states have exceptions where under-age drinking is permitted in certain circumstances.

The report found that 23.5 percent of Americans binge-drank in the past month. Binge-drinking is defined as having four or more drinks for women or girls and five or more for men and boys. The highest rate of binge-drinking was in North Dakota, where nearly one in three residents binge-drank.

Under-age binge drinking went down overall in the US, dropping from 19.2 percent in 2002-2003 to 17.7 percent in 2008-2009, according to the SAMHSA report.

The report also measured marijuana use among Americans and found that the rate of use of marijuana in the past month was up for the two years covered by the report. It found that 6.4 percent of Americans aged 12 and older said they had used marijuana in the past month, compared to just 6 percent in 2007-2008.

Although marijuana use fell in the 12 to 17 year old group, about 7 percent of them report using it.

Marijuana use is highest in the states of Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and in the District of Columbia. In those states, the report found that perceptions of the dangers associated with marijuana use were very low.

In the cigarette category, SAMHSA found that 23.6 percent of Americans aged 12 and older had smoked cigarettes in the past month. The number of Americans who perceived cigarette smoking as dangerous fell from just over 69 percent in 2007-2008 to 67.7 percent in 2008-2009.

Also in the report, one in five American adults reported having some type of mental illness in the past 12 months. Furthermore, one in 16 adults and one in 12 teens reported depression in the past year.

Mental illness and depression rates remained unchanged from past years, according to the report, which is based on the 2008 and 2009 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.

For more information on the SAMHSA report go to http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/NSDUHlatest.htm .