Fewer NSW teenagers are trying alcohol but many of those who do are starting young and drinking to excess, government figures show.

The Health Department released a snapshot on Wednesday of the health behaviour of 8000 high school students aged 12 to 17.

It showed the number of teens in NSW trying booze has dropped by nearly a quarter in 25 years, but those who have tried it are drinking to get drunk and risking their safety.

In 2011, 68.8 per cent reported having tried alcohol, which is a 21.4 per cent drop since 1987.

There was also a 25.4 per cent slide in the number who'd had a drink in the past year, down to 68.8 per cent from 90.2 per cent in 1984.

The Minister for Mental Health and Healthy Lifestyles, Kevin Humphries, said the downward trend suggests teens are more aware of the dangers of binge drinking.

"And (they) are changing their behaviour as a result," Mr Humphries said.

However, he was concerned at the report's figures which showed a third of students are out to get drunk every time they drink.

In addition, one in five teens had been in a car in the past year when the driver was under the influence of alcohol.

They were also young when they had their first drink, with nearly half of boys and 40 per cent of girls trying booze when they were 12 years old.

"When it comes to reducing the rate of teenage drinking we are certainly heading in the right direction," Mr Humphries said.

"However many of the statistics ... are concerning."

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