Intoxication and binge and high-intensity drinking among US young adults in their mid-20s

Yvonne M. Terry-McElrath, Megan E. Patrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: Alcohol use is a key risk factor for young adult mortality and disease, but limited research has focused on high-risk alcohol use among individuals moving from early young adulthood into building and maintaining an initial structure of adult life. This study estimated the prevalence of a range of alcohol use behaviors among US young adults aged 25/26, examined evidence for historical change in prevalence rates, and estimated associations between alcohol use and key demographic, substance use, and adult social role characteristics. Methods: Data were obtained from 3542 individuals selected for follow-up from the nationally representative 12th-grade student Monitoring the Future study. Respondents self-reported alcohol use behaviors at age 25/26 during calendar years 2005–2014. Results: Two fifths (39.9%) of young adults aged 25/26 reported being intoxicated at least once in the past 30 days; 25.6% reported usually experiencing a sustained high of 3 or more hours when drinking alcohol. Past-2-week binge drinking (5+ drinks in a row) was reported by 36.3% of respondents. Past-2-week high-intensity drinking (10+ drinks in a row) was reported by 12.4%. These age 25/26 alcohol use prevalence rates remained stable over the 10 years of data examined, in contrast to significant declines over historical time in alcohol prevalence rates among these same individuals at age 18. High-risk drinking was particularly associated with being male, white, unmarried, employed, a nonparent, and an alcohol user before finishing high school. Conclusions: Among US young adults in their mid-20s, alcohol use was highly normative and frequently included participation in high-risk drinking behaviors. High-risk alcohol use prevention approaches developed specifically to reach young adults in their mid-20s are needed, as well as efforts to increase proactive clinician screening to identify young adults participating in high-risk alcohol use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-605
Number of pages9
JournalSubstance Abuse
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Alcohol consumption
  • alcoholic intoxication
  • binge drinking
  • high-intensity drinking
  • young adult


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