In a survey conducted in 1996, 109 million Americans age 12 and older had used alcohol in the previous month (51% of the population). About 32 million people (15.5%) engaged in binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion. Of these, about 11 million Americans (5.4%) were heavy drinkers, defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least five different days in the past month.
The percentage of college freshmen who say they drink beer frequently or occasionally was 51.8 percent in 1998. Among all college students, the overall binge-drinking rate has stayed constant between 1993 and 1999 at 44 percent, but frequent binge drinkers rose from 20 percent in 1993 to 23 percent in 1999.
The percentage of high school seniors who reported having five or more drinks in a row in the last 2 weeks was 30.8 percent in 1999, up from 27.5 percent in 1993.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), in 2000, estimated that 14 million U.S. residents suffer from alcohol abuse and dependence, and 76 million are affected by the alcoholism of a family member.
The illegal use of alcoholic beverages by teenagers has generated a high level of concern on the part of health-care professionals, police, parents, and activist groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAAD) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
Another cause for concern is that the level of alcohol use in 1996 was strongly associated with illicit drug use. Thirty-one percent of the heavy drinkers were current illicit drug users; 16 percent of the binge (but not heavy drinkers) were illicit drug users; 5.3 percent of the other drinkers, but only 1.9 percent of the nondrinkers, were illicit drug users.
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