BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Indulging in alcoholic beverages is a time-honored tradition in North Dakota — especially during the fall and winter, when chilly temperatures and heavy snowstorms begin to lock us out of outdoor activities. But as much as we love a good drink from time to time, it’s important that we not only do so in moderation, but ensure that alcoholic beverages don’t fall into the hands of minors. Unfortunately, as recent data shows, underage drinking is extremely common in the state — especially when compared to the rest of the United States.

In an attempt to discover where the highest rates of underage drinking were located throughout the country, recovery resource Addiction Treatment Magazine compared the states based on the most up-to-date information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s last National Survey on Drug Use and Health — specifically, the number of young people between the ages of 12 and 20 that had consumed alcoholic drinks in the past month prior to the survey and those who had engaged in binge drinking. When these numbers were scored and ranked against one another, it was determined that North Dakota, unfortunately, is one of the states where underage drinking is the most common.

RankStateAlcohol use in past month (%) Binge alcohol use in past month (%) Alcohol use in past month (in thousands) Binge alcohol use in past month (in thousands) 
1Vermont24.7% 14.2% 18,00010,000 
2Rhode Island21.9% 12.2% 27,00015,000
3New Hampshire20.6% 9.6% 30,00014,000
4Massachusetts20.4% 10.8% 169,00089,000
5Oregon20.1% 10.5% 91,00048,000
6Iowa19.3% 9.4% 79,00039,000
7Wisconsin18.9% 10.6% 125,00070,000
8Colorado18.4% 11.1% 127,00076,000
9Maine18.3% 8.1% 25,00011,000
10North Dakota18.2% 11.7% 17,00011,000
States with the highest levels of underage drinking/binge drinking

According to the findings, North Dakota boasts one of the largest rates of underage drinking in the nation — even when one takes into consideration the state’s relatively miniscule population. On average, at the time of the study, 18.2% of the state’s population between the ages of 12 and 20 regularly consume alcohol — which averages out to about 17,000 individuals. In addition, 11.7% of our underage residents partake in binge drinking, a total of 11,000 residents.

On the other end of the scale, states like Indiana, Idaho, and Mississippi reported the lowest rated of both underage and binge drinking — with Mississippi having the lowest rates in the nation.

RankStateAlcohol use in past month (%) Binge alcohol use in past month (%) Alcohol use in past month (in thousands) Binge alcohol use in past month (in thousands) 
1Mississippi9.7% 5.4%32,00018,000
2Utah10.7% 6.8%53,00034,000
3North Carolina11.3% 6%126,00066,000
4Alabama12% 6.6%71,00039,000
5Arkansas12.3% 7.2%46,00027,000
6Indiana12.6% 6.7%103,00055,000
7Georgia12.6% 6.9%176,00096,000
8Idaho12.7% 6.8%29,00016,000
9Tennessee12.8% 7.2%99,00056,000
10Texas13.3% 7.1%522,000280,000
States with the lowest levels of underage drinking/binge drinking

“It’s no secret that underage drinking is a major concern in the United States,” states a representative from Addiction Treatment Magazine in a press release, “as it can pose several significant risks to the well-being of young people — including health risks, impaired judgment, and the risk of dependency and addiction. These findings provide an intriguing insight into where underage drinking is the most prominent throughout the country, with Vermont coming out on top. While progress has been made in reducing underage drinking rates, it is still a matter of concern, and ongoing efforts are necessary to address this issue and protect the health and safety of young people.” 

In North Dakota, it is illegal to manufacture, purchase, consume, or possess alcoholic beverages if you are under the age of 21. Drinking while underage can result in up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, and driving while under the influence can result in facing a $10,000 fine and up to five years in prison. To learn more about underage drinking laws in ND, visit this page on Vision Zero’s website.