Teen student drinking at 25-year low but binge drinking persists, CDC says

PHOTO: According to a new study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the teen drinking rate has dropped.PlayGetty Images/Universal Images Group
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Teen drinking appears to have reached a new low, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The percent of teens who reported drinking at least one drink per month dropped from 50.8 percent in 1991 to just 32.8 percent in 2015.

However, those who reported drinking tended to also report what is considered binge drinking: 57.8 percent of teens who reported drinking said they have had five drinks in a row.

"Despite progress, current and binge drinking remain common among high school students, and many students who binge drink do so at high intensity," the authors wrote. Of the students who reported binge drinking, 43.8 percent said they had consumed at least eight drinks in one sitting.

Overall, rates of teen binge drinking dropped from a high of 31.5 percent of teens in 1999 to 17.7 percent of teen students in 2015 according to the report.

The CDC researchers examined data from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, where students complete a self-administered questionnaire. Between 1991 and 2015, the sample size of the students studied ranged from 10,904 to 16,410. The researchers acknowledge one limitation of the study is that it does not include teens who aren't enrolled in school.

The researchers said one of the reasons for the decline in drinking rates is likely the increase in state policies designed to prevent underage drinking. But there is more to be done.

Despite the apparent downward trend for teen student drinking, excessive alcohol consumption remains a danger, according to the CDC and advocacy groups. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services characterizes underage drinking as a "a considerable public health challenge."

Approximately 4,300 deaths among underage people were recorded annually between 2006 and 2010, according to the CDC report.

There is also a financial cost to excessive drinking. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, cited by the CDC, showed the costs for medical care associated with excessive drinking, including underage drinking, was more than $24.3 billion in the U.S.

To deter more teens from picking up the bottle, the CDC said some policy changes based on evidence-based studies could help. Strategies to help curb teen drinking could include raising taxes on alcohol and passing laws that regulate the number of places to buy or consume alcohol in a specific area. Additionally, they advise implementing more rules around alcohol advertising to prevent marketing that appeals to teens.

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