Underage drinking dangers: These are the states with the highest rates of teen alcohol use, study finds

A new study done by addiction recovery resource Addiction Treatment Magazine has revealed the states that have the highest and lowest prevalence of underage drinking.

Researchers looked at the number of young people between the ages of 12 and 20 who had consumed an alcoholic drink within the last month and had participated in binge-drinking, which is classified as consuming four or more drinks in one sitting, according to a press release on the publication’s website.

The data was drawn from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) based on the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The study determined that the state of Vermont has the highest prevalence of drinkers between the ages of 12 and 20 in the U.S., according to the release.

Nearly 25% of minors in the state had consumed alcohol, and more than 14% had participated in binge-drinking. 

Other states with high rates include Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  

In Rhode Island, nearly 22% of young people between the ages 12 and 20 consume alcohol monthly, and 12% of minors consume four or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting, the study found.

In New Hampshire, 20.6% of people between the ages 12 and 20 had consumed alcohol in the last month. 

The share was 20.4% for Massachusetts. 

Rounding out the top 10 are the states of Oregon, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Maine and North Dakota.

At the other end of the spectrum, Mississippi has the lowest prevalence of underage drinking, with only 9.7% of underage people consuming alcohol. 

It also has the lowest binge-drinking rate, at only 5.4%, according to the study. 

Utah is the second-lowest, at 11% for alcohol consumption and 6.8% for binge-drinking among the underage population. 

Coming in at third lowest is North Carolina, where 11.3% of underage people consumed alcohol in the last month.

Alabama is also on the lower end at 12%, followed by Arkansas at 12.3%.

Rounding out the lower 10 are Indiana, Georgia, Idaho, Tennessee and Texas. 

“It’s no secret that underage drinking is a major concern in the United States, as it can pose several significant risks to the well-being of young people, including health risks, impaired judgment and the risk of dependency and addiction,” said a spokesperson for Addiction Treatment Magazine in the release.

“These findings provide an intriguing insight into where underage drinking is the most prominent throughout the country, with Vermont coming out on top. While progress has been made in reducing underage drinking rates, it is still a matter of concern, and ongoing efforts are necessary to address this issue and protect the health and safety of young people,” the spokesperson continued.

Dr. Chris Tuell, clinical director of addiction services for the Lindner Center of HOPE in Ohio, was not involved in the study, but said he wasn’t surprised by the findings.

“A parent’s position on underage drinking is paramount and is one of the strongest protective factors against underage drinking.”

“The Northeast has had a history of higher rates of underage drinking for the past 20 years,” he told Fox News Digital in an interview. “There continues to be no definitive reason why these rates are the way they are.”

One possible reason for Vermont’s topping the list, he said, is that it is a rural state with many colleges and universities — the highest number per capita of any state.

Overall, the findings indicate that the use of alcohol in young people continues to be a concern, Tuell said.

“The research is crystal-clear that early alcohol use before the age of 15 raises the risk of lifelong problems of addiction and alcoholism,” he warned. 

“Early alcohol use — drinking at age 14 or earlier — [means a] 7 times greater risk for developing an alcohol problem than someone who begins drinking at age 21.” 

Other possible reasons for the high rates in some states may be related to how the packaging of alcohol is geared toward youth, such as flavored drinks, and the association of alcohol use with sporting events, the expert noted.

“This promotes alcohol use in young people as a necessary part of having fun,” Tuell said.

“A parent’s position on underage drinking is paramount and is one of the strongest protective factors against underage drinking,” he also said.

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