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April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

In 1987, a non-profit organization called the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) – first founded in 1944 as the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism (NCEA) – initiated the first annual Alcohol Awareness Month.

Between 1987 and 2019, the NCADD hosted Alcohol Awareness Month to accomplish the following goals:

  • Increase awareness about the negative effects of alcohol misuse and alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is the clinical term for what used to be called alcoholism.
  • Target college age people about the dangers of excessive drinking
  • Increase awareness about the various treatment options available to people who misuse alcohol or people with AUD
  • Decrease stigma around AUD and AUD treatment

In 2018, The NCADD merged with another non-profit, Facing Addiction, in order to maintain their mission and organizational goals. A year after the merger, in 2019, Facing Addiction announced they were ceasing operations.

However, others took up the mission of Alcohol Awareness Month in various forms. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) hosts National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week every March, and this year, Partners in Prevention, a New Jersey-based non-profit organization has taken a leadership role in making the 2021 Alcohol Awareness Month a reality.

Please take a moment to read our article National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week 2021.

The mission of the Partners in Prevention awareness month remains the same: raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol uses, particularly among young people, increase knowledge about treatment and prevention of AUD, and reduce stigma around AUD and treatment for AUD.

In 2021, alcohol awareness is critical. Data shows that our youth were under incredible stress throughout 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and experienced increases in mental health, behavioral, and drug and alcohol use disorders.

This article will offer the latest statistics on the prevalence of alcohol use among high school students and share resources for people seeking treatment for AUD.

First, the statistics.

High School Students and Alcohol Use: Facts and Figures

The most reliable data on alcohol and drug use among teenagers is found in the annual Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF). Conducted by the University of Michigan in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the MTF is a comprehensive nationwide survey of nicotine, alcohol, and drug use among high school students.

In 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, researchers obtained data from 11,821 students in 112 schools, which is roughly a quarter of the standard MTF sample size. However – despite the smaller-than-typical size – that number meets the criteria for a nationally representative data set, which means that mental health and addiction experts can use it to reach general conclusions about prevalence rates of alcohol and drug use among adolescents.

In this article, we use the MTF data to accomplish one element of the mission of Alcohol Awareness Month: increase your knowledge about teen alcohol use in the U.S.

Adolescents: Alcohol Use (MTF 2020)

Percentages listed below indicate “yes” answers to the following questions on rates of alcohol use:

Lifetime Use:

Have you ever used alcohol in your life?

Have you ever been drunk in your life?

Past Year Use:

Have you used alcohol in the past year?

Have you been drunk in the past year?

Past Month Use:

Have you used alcohol in the past month?

Have you been drunk in the past month?

Daily Use:

Do you use alcohol daily?

Have you been drunk in the past 24 hours?

Heavy Use:

Have you consumed five or more drinks on any one occasion in the past two weeks?

 The Data:

  • Lifetime Use:
    • 8th grade: 25.6%
    • 10th grade: 46.4%
    • 12th grade: 61.5%
    • All grades combined: 44.0%
  • Ever drunk: 26.4%
    • 8th grade: 10.1%
    • 10th grade: 28.8%
    • 12th grade: 41.7%
  • Past Year Use:
    • 8th grade: 20.5%
    • 10th grade: 40.7%
    • 12th grade: 55.3%
    • All grades combined: 38.3%
  • Drunk (i.e. intoxicated) in past year: 22.1%
    • 8th grade: 7.5%
    • 10th grade: 23.1%
    • 12th grade: 36.9%
  • Past Month Use:
    • 8th grade: 9.9%
    • 10th grade: 20.3%
    • 12th grade: 33.6%
    • All grades combined: 20.9%
  • Drunk in past month: 10.5%
    • 8th grade: 3.4%
    • 10th grade: 9.3%
    • 12th grade: 19.8%
  • Daily Use:
    • 8th grade: 0.4%
    • 10th grade: 1.0%
    • 12th grade: 2.7%
    • All grades combined: 4.1%
  • Drunk in past 24 hours:
    • 8th grade: 0.2%
    • 10th grade: 0.3%
    • 12th grade: 0.8%
  • Heavy Use (consumed 5 + drinks at least once in the past two weeks):
    • 8th grade: 4.5%
    • 10th grade: 9.6%
    • 12th grade: 16.8%
    • All grades combined: 10.3%

The most notable trend in this data includes the rates of heavy alcohol use among teens: although long-term trends show a dramatic decrease in alcohol use among high school students since 1979, rates of binge drinking leveled in 2015, and have gradually increased since then. This is a trend to watch closely, because binge drinking results in extreme intoxication, which, in turn, leads to a greater risk of alcohol-related accidents, injury, and death.

Treatment and Support for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Alcohol use disorder is a treatable condition that responds well to an approach called the integrated treatment model, which follows the nine components of effective substance abuse treatment as defined by addiction experts and endorsed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration  (SAMHSA).

Integrated treatment includes a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, community support, experiential therapies, and lifestyle modification.

Individual, group, and family therapy during AUD treatment often includes adolescent- and family-specific cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Experiential therapies may include mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (M-CBT), mindful meditation, yoga, surfing, and equine therapy (horses). Community supports include programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Alateen, and Alanon (for families). Lifestyle changes include improvements in eating habits, sleep habits, and education – and implementation – of the benefits of regular exercise for recovery and overall health and wellness.

To learn how you can find effective, evidence-based treatment for your teenager, please read our article My Teenager Has an Addiction Problem: How Do I Find a Quality Treatment Program?  or download our helpful Finding Treatment Guide.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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