The use of illicit drugs by 12- to 17-year-olds declined slightly from 2002 to 2004, but the proportion of underage youths drinking alcohol remained constant over the same period, according to the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
In nearly 68,000 interviews done last year by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 30 percent of respondents ages 12 to 20 said that they had drunk alcohol in the past month.
Six percent described themselves as heavy drinkers, meaning they had five or more drinks on one occasion on at least five days over the past month, and nearly 20 percent describing themselves as binge drinkers, meaning they had five or more drinks on one occasion at least once in the past month. One out of 10 16- and 17-year-olds reported driving under the influence of alcohol.
By race and ethnicity, the proportion of white underage drinkers was the highest, at 32.6 percent, followed by Hispanics at 26.6 percent, American Indians or Alaska Natives at 24.3 percent, and African-Americans at 19.1 percent. The lowest proportion, 16.4 percent, was for Asian-Americans.
The survey also found that the proportion of 12- to 17-year-olds reporting illicit-drug use declined from 11.6 percent in 2002 to 10.6 percent last year. The proportion of boys in that age group who had used marijuana declined from 9.1 percent in 2002 to 8.1 percent last year, but the percentage remained nearly unchanged among girls in the same age group: 7.1 percent in 2004, compared with 7.2 percent two years earlier.
Girls ages 12 to 17 were more likely than boys those ages to smoke cigarettes, with 12.5 percent of the girls surveyed saying they had smoked in the past month, compared with 11.3 percent of the boys.
A version of this article appeared in the September 21, 2005 edition of Education Week