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Reduce the prevalence of individuals with or at risk of substance abuse or mental illness

Youth choose healthy behaviors

Vermonters are healthy

Vermonters are Healthy

Vermont's youth choose healthy behaviors

% of adolescents in grades 9-12 binge drinking in the past 30 days

Current Value




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Story Behind the Curve

Last Updated: August 2023

Author: Division of Substance Use Programs, Vermont Department of Health

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a delayed administration period, caution should be used when interpreting and comparing the 2021 results to other years; See Notes on Methodology for more information. There are a couple of significant differences from previous years:

  • Survey data was collected during a period when schools and students were still significantly impacted by the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This context has likely influenced the responses and behaviors captured in the survey.
  • Survey was conducted in the fall of 2021, deviating from its usual timing in the spring. As a result, the age of the surveyed students is approximately six months younger than in previous years. This age difference can potentially impact the trends and comparisons drawn from the data.


In 2019, 15% of high school students binge drank at least one time during the past 30 days. In 2019, four percent of students drank 10 or more drinks in a row within a couple of hours during the past month.  Binge drinking significantly increases with each grade level and does not differ by sex, race, or sexual orientation.


 The Vermont Department of health supports community-based environmental and individual prevention programs aimed at reduction of binge drinking, including media campaigns, evidence-based strategies, and a focus on middle and high school youth.  Our school-based substance abuse services (SBSAS) grants also focus on environmental and individual prevention programs and strategies aimed at reduction of underage and binge drinking.


The Supervisory Unions across the state that are receiving SBSAS funds are also required to deliver screening and referral services to substance abuse and mental health services, as well as activities that support the CDC’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) framework.  Optional activities can include supporting VDH’s statewide media campaigns (e.g. Parent UP), evidence-based curriculum, parent education programs, peer leadership programs, teacher training and educational support groups with students.


Please note:  In 2017, the binge drinking measure definition for youth was changed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to make it gender specific. Prior to 2017, binge drinking was defined as five or more drinks in one sitting for both males and females while in the Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) for 2017 and later, it is defined as five or more drinks for males and four or more drinks for females. Data prior to 2017 can't be compared with current data.

Why Is This Important?

This indicator is part of Healthy Vermonters 2020 (the State Health Assessment) that documents the health status of Vermonters at the start of the decade and the population health indicators and goals that will guide the work of public health through 2020. Click here for more information.


This indicator is also part of the State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP), a five-year plan that prioritizes broad Healthy Vermonters 2020 goals: reducing prevalence of chronic disease, reducing prevalence of substance abuse and mental illness, and improving childhood immunizations. The SHIP is a subset of HV2020 and details strategies and planned interventions. Click here for more information.


  • Community Coalitions
  • Middle and High Schools
  • Parents
  • Law Enforcement
  • Regional Substance Use Prevention Consultants, Office of Local Health, Vermont Department of Health

What Works

A comprehensive approach using multiple evidence-based programs, practices, and policies such as those listed in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) or recommended by The Community Guide. These include programs serving youth and families, as well as community-wide strategies such as media advocacy and community education.


As federal and state funding levels permit, the Vermont Department of Health plans to continue supporting prevention of underage drinking through grants to community organizations and schools. In addition, support of policies and enforcement practices that limit access to alcohol for underage Vermonters (e.g., minimum legal drinking age of 21, zero tolerance law for drivers under the age of 21, the Vermont Department of Liquor Control compliance check program, etc.).


The grants that have supported these efforts are the Strategic Prevention Framework-State Incentive Grant, the Partnerships for Success II initiative, and the Regional Prevention Partnership. These grants directly support the use of evidenced-based programs, practices, and policies, to further reduce rates of both underage drinking and underage binge drinking.


Ongoing programs and grants include:

  • Community Grants
  • Partnerships for Success II Grants
  • School-Based Substance Misuse Services
  • ParentUp campaign

Notes on Methodology

Typically administered during the spring of odd years, the 2021 YRBS was administered during the fall of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Prevalence estimates for the 2021 VT YRBS and comparisons with previous results

were likely impacted by some significant factors unique to 2021, including the COVID-19 pandemic and a younger population completing the survey due to the delayed survey administration period.


Students who participated in the 2021 YRBS may have had a different educational and social experience compared to previous participants. Disruptions, including remote learning, lack of social interactions and extracurricular activities, are likely reflected in the survey results.


Caution should be used when interpreting and comparing the 2021 results to other years. For more information on the delayed administration and how it may have impacted the 2021 results, please see "Special Considerations for 2021"


Data is updated as it becomes available, and timing may vary by data source. For more information about this indicator, click here.  Trend data are not shown because the binge drinking measure definition was changed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to make it gender specific in 2017. Prior to 2017, binge drinking was defined as five or more drinks in one sitting for both males and females while in the 2017 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) it is defined as five or more drinks for males and four or more drinks for females. Trend information for 2015 and earlier is available on page 25 of this report.


Previously adolescent binge drinking was measured using the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). In 2016, the Health Department moved to using the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) to better provide local estimates of prevalence and support work at the community level.

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