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Underage Drinkers Spent $22.5 Billion on Alcohol in 2001

Underage drinking, adult alcohol dependence accounted for 37.5 percent of alcohol sales

MONDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Underage drinkers are responsible for 17.5 percent of alcohol sales in the United States, spending about $22.5 billion in 2001, according to a study in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Underage drinking and adult alcohol abuse and dependence accounted for $48.3 billion or 37.5 percent of alcohol sales, the study notes.

Susan E. Foster, M.S.W., and colleagues from Columbia University in New York City consulted several U.S. national data sets containing a total of 260,580 persons aged 12 years or older to determine the total amount of alcohol consumed and the cash value of alcohol due to illegal underage drinking and adult pathological drinking in 2001. Alcohol abuse and dependence was defined according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.

The researchers found that $128.6 billion was spent on alcohol, of which $22.5 billion (17.5 percent) was attributable to underage drinking and $25.8 billion (20.1 percent) was attributable to adult pathological drinking. Among youth 12 to 20 years old, 25.9 percent met the criteria for alcohol abuse and dependence, consuming 47.3 percent of all drinks in that age group, compared with only 9.6 percent of adults over 21 years old meeting these criteria and who consumed 25 percent of drinks in that age group.

"For the alcohol industry, increases in alcohol consumption come either from new customers or from increased drinking among existing customers," Foster and colleagues write. "This analysis demonstrates that early initiation of alcohol use provides substantial financial value to the alcohol industry in both areas."

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