Underage drinking may be going online, a new online survey shows.

According to the survey, more than 3 million minors have a friend who has bought alcohol online and more than half a million have done so themselves.

The survey didn’t actually include millions of teens. Those figures are based on about 1,000 youths aged 14-20 who took the survey.

The survey was done in April by Teen Research Unlimited for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, Inc., a national trade association.

“Millions of minors are either buying, or know someone who is buying, wine, beer, and liquor online and having it home delivered without an ID check, while many more are already visiting web sites that sell alcohol,” states the survey report.

Among the results:

--2 percent reported having bought alcohol online.

--12 percent reported having a friend who had bought alcohol online.

--Nearly 1 in 10 said they had visited a web site that sells alcohol.

--Nearly 4 in 10 thought alcohol is available by Internet.

Two-thirds of the participants said they “definitely will not” buy alcohol online before they turn 21.

But the rest didn’t rule out the possibility.

And while most participants (81 percent) said their parents trusted their judgment when using the Internet, three-quarters said their Internet activities can’t be controlled by their parents.

At least a third of participants said they thought it would be easy to get wine, wine coolers, beer, and liquor online.

Many weren’t concerned about enforcement. Nearly half (45 percent) said they didn’t think they would get caught if they ordered alcohol online or over the telephone.

It’s not clear if the participants represent all youth their age.

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America supports state-based alcohol control and opposes “illegal direct shipping,” says the association’s web site.

By Miranda Hitti, Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Teen Research Unlimited, “Research Findings: Underage Alcohol Access & Consumption -- Internet, Phone, and Mail,” Summer 2006. Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, Inc.: “Direct Shipment of Alcohol to Consumers.” News release, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, Inc.