The perception that most high school kids drink alcoholic beverages isn't true, the Minnesota Department of Health reports.

And it's less true now - much less true - than it was at the beginning of the century.

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"It's important that kids know, that contrary to public belief, a majority of high school students don't drink alcohol," state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said on Thursday in a news release as the health department released an analysis of the latest data on teen drinking in the state.

For example, among the state's ninth-graders:

  • The percentage of students reporting current alcohol use dropped from 30.4 in 2001 to 11.2 in 2016.
  • The percentage of students who said they started drinking before age 13 dropped from 19.8 in 2007 to 12.3 in 2016.
  • The percentage of students who admitted to binge drinking dropped from 6.9 in 2013 to 4.4 in 2016.

The analysis was drawn from the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey, which surveyed students in fifth, eighth, ninth and 11th grades.

The downturn carries into the college level, or at least that's so at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said Lauretta Perry, the school's chemical health educator.

"What we have seen is, also, a continuous decline in the number of students that are receiving alcohol-related violations, the number of our DUIs" at least over the past five years, she said.

The drop in DUIs has been particularly stark in just the past year, Perry said. During the 2016-17 academic year, UMD students had 32 citations. This academic year, so far, there have been two.

Perry said she expects the extreme drop is attributable to the introduction one year ago of ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft to Duluth.

"We believe that this is a generation of students that is using sober cabs and designated drivers as their social norm," she said. "That already existed, but by having Uber and Lyft in the community, it made it that much more accessible."

According to student surveys UMD conducts every three years, the number of drinks students consume has been declining, Perry said. At the same time, though, the number of students receiving marijuana-related citations has increased.

About half of UMD students have reported that they use marijuana at least on occasion in surveys since 2007, she said.

Minnesota has a lower youth drinking rate than the nation and surrounding states, according to the health department's analysis. But some students are more at risk than others for drinking alcohol as teens, it said.

For example, white and Hispanic students have higher alcohol use rates than African Americans and Asians, and Native Americans have higher rates still. Students with "protective factors," such as an adult to talk to and the absence of childhood trauma, were significantly less likely to report problem drinking.

It also shows a relationship between teen drinking and mental health issues.

For example, 38 percent of students who began drinking before age 13 said they had considered suicide, compared with 19 percent who waited until at least that age to start. Also, 41 percent of teens who admitted binge drinking within the previous 30 days had considered suicide, compared with 18 percent of those who hadn't engaged in binge drinking.