New Study in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and CASA* Report Reveal: Underage Drinkers, Alcoholics and Alcohol Abusers Consume Between 37.5% and 48.8% of Alcohol Sold | Center on Addiction

New Study in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and CASA* Report Reveal: Underage Drinkers, Alcoholics and Alcohol Abusers Consume Between 37.5% and 48.8% of Alcohol Sold

New Study in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and CASA* Report Reveal: Underage Drinkers, Alcoholics and Alcohol Abusers Consume Between 37.5% and 48.8% of Alcohol Sold

NEW YORK, N.Y., May 1, 2006

Underage drinkers and adult pathological drinkers (those that meet the clinical DSM­-IV criteria for alcohol abuse or addiction) consume between 37.5% and 48.8% of the value of all alcohol sold in the United States, according to an article in the May 1 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (APAM).

This groundbreaking study, The Commercial Value of Underage Drinking and Adult Abusive and Dependent Drinking to the Alcohol Industry, conducted by researchers at CASAColumbia (CASA) at Columbia University, finds that underage drinkers and pathological drinkers account for at least $48.3 billion and as much as $62.9 billion in alcohol sales in 2001, the last year for which the necessary data were available.

CASA’s related White Paper, The Commercial Value of Underage and Pathological Drinking to the Alcohol Industry, reveals that in 2001 at least $22.5 billion of consumer spending on alcohol came from underage drinking and $25.8 billion came from adult pathological drinking.

“Consuming at least $48 billion in beer, wine and liquor, underage and pathological drinkers are the alcohol industry’s most valuable customers,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA’s Chairman and President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “It is reckless for our society to rely on an industry with such an enormous financial interest in alcohol consumption by children, teens, alcoholics and alcohol abusers to curb such drinking. Self-regulation by the alcohol industry is a delusion that ensnares too many children and teens.”

The peer-reviewed APAM article and CASA report reveal that 25.9% of underage drinkers meet clinical criteria for alcohol abuse and addiction—more than 2 ½ times the 9.6% of adult drinkers who meet the criteria for such pathological drinking.

Prior to the CASA study, no research had ever examined the combined commercial value of underage and pathological drinking to the alcohol industry. CASA’s investigation discloses that the financial stake of the alcohol industry is in direct conflict with the nation’s interest in public health.

Former U.S. Surgeons General Julius Richmond (President Carter), Antonia Novello (President George H. W. Bush), and David Satcher (Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush) and former

First Lady Betty Ford have joined Califano and CASA in calling for federal regulation of the alcohol industry’s advertising and marketing practices.

In a joint statement, the U.S. Surgeons General said, “If unchecked, the alcohol industry stands to gain at least one-half trillion dollars in cash revenues over the next decade from consumption by underage and pathological drinkers. The industry’s significant financial gains from underage and pathological consumers create a conflict of interest for the alcohol industry. This conflict is so substantial that regulation of advertising and marketing practices solely by the industry cannot be expected to work.”

“Exposure of young people to alcohol advertising has been shown to increase their drinking, and the earlier a child starts to drink the greater the chance that he or she will become a pathological drinker,” said former First Lady Betty Ford. “It is imperative to provide effective prevention and treatment services for teens to interrupt their progression to adult pathological drinking.”

Other Findings in the CASA White Paper:

  • Alcohol abuse and addiction cost the nation an estimated $220 billion in 2005 – more than cancer ($196 billion) and obesity ($133 billion)
  • Each day more than 13,000 children and teens take their first drink
  • The 25.9% of underage drinkers who are alcoholics and alcohol abusers consume 47.3% of alcohol drunk by underage drinkers
  • The 9.6% of adult pathological drinkers consume 25% of alcohol drunk by adult drinkers
  • Children and teens that begin drinking before age 15 are 4 times likelier to become alcohol dependent than those who do not drink before age 21

The CASA report also recommends a public health campaign, education of health care providers, more effective prevention and treatment programs, and insurance coverage for treatment.

“It is critical for our nation to put an end to this senseless savagery that alcohol abuse and addiction visit on our children and teens--in deaths from auto accidents and risky sex and alcohol poisoning, rape, murder, suicide and other violence,” Califano added, as he urged parents, colleges and the media, as well as alcohol industry executives to accept personal responsibility to help curb underage and pathological drinking:

  • Parents are children’s first line of defense and should be actively engaged in their children’s lives. They should restrict availability of alcohol to their children and talk to their children about the dangers of alcohol abuse and addiction
  • Colleges must accept their responsibility to create environments that discourage drinking, including the prohibition of alcohol advertising on campus and at sponsored events. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should ban all beer and other alcohol advertising during broadcasts of college sporting events like football and basketball games
  • The media, including magazines, network and local radio, television and cable stations, and Internet sites should take steps to avoid exposing underage viewers to alcohol advertisements

The current article and white paper are part of CASA’s continuing examination of underage and adult pathological drinking. In February 2003 CASA released a white paper and CASA researchers published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), both entitled “The Economic Value of Underage Drinking and Adult Excessive Drinking to the Alcohol Industry” which found that eliminating underage and adult excessive drinking (measured in the study reported in the article as more than two drinks a day, the maximum level recommended for most men by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services) would mean a reduction of at least 50.1% of the alcohol consumed in the United States in 1999 or $56.9 billion in consumer expenditures for alcohol.

The APAM article was written by CASA Fellows Susan E. Foster, Vice President and Director of Policy Research and Analysis; Roger Vaughan, DrPH, MS, head of CASA’s Substance Abuse Data Analysis Center (SADAC) and Associate Editor for Statistics and Evaluation for the American Journal for Public Health, Associate Clinical Professor of Biostatistics, Department of Biostatistics, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University; William H. Foster, PhD, Interim Dean, Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine and former CASA Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and Califano.

CASA is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA has issued 60 reports and white papers, published one book, conducted demonstration projects focused on children, families and schools at 139 sites in 61 cities and counties in 26 states plus Washington, DC and a Native American tribal reservation, and has been testing the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment, in a variety of programs and drug courts. CASA is the creator of the nationwide Family Day initiative - the fourth Monday in September - that promotes parental engagement as a simple and effective way to reduce children’s risk of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs. For more information visit

*CASAColumbia at Columbia University is neither affiliated with, nor sponsored by, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (also known as "CASA") or any of its member organizations with the name of "CASA."


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