This webpage includes the most noteworthy alcohol abuse statistics and data available in the United States.
Alcohol use in the United States is widespread. An estimated 2-in-3 American adults consume alcohol. Addiction to and abuse of alcohol, however, cause significant damage to the user’s health and personal relationships, as well as to the user’s community and environment.
- 180 million or 86.3% of Americans over the age of 18 report having tried alcohol at some point in their lives.
- 146 million or 70.0% of American adults over the age of 18 report having had alcohol in the past year.
- 116 million or 55.3% of American adults report having consumed alcohol within the last month.
- Alcohol manufacturing is one of the top five industries, employing over 130,000 Americans.
- The average employee at a brewery earns over $50,000 each year.
- Over 58,000 breweries earn American workers almost $3 billion.
- 9 million people begin using alcohol every year.
Official definitions are based on consensus among national regulating institutions, including the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the U.S. Department of Health (USDH), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
- Alcoholism refers to a pattern of addictive behavior characterized by excessive drinking.
- Excessive drinking may include heavy alcohol use, underage drinking, and “binge drinking.”
- Binge drinking refers to alcohol use that routinely brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 percent – that’s 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter – or higher.
- To attain a BAC of 0.08% or higher, the average adult must consume 4-5 drinks in a 2-hour period.
- What qualifies as heavy alcohol use varies depending on body type.
- 3-4 drinks on any given day may be considered heavy alcohol use.
- Some definitions of heavy drinking differentiate body types by sex.
- For women, 8-or-more drinks per week is excessive.
- For men, it’s 15-or-more drinks per week.
- Alcohol addicts tend to pass through four stages.
- Social drinking is relatively benign and does not always lead to alcohol abuse.
- Binge drinking is the
Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is identified as an inability to control or stop alcohol usage despite serious personal consequences; it is considered a chronic relapsing brain disorder.
- 14.8 million Americans have been diagnosed with AUD.
- 401,000 adolescents have AUD.
- 14.4 million adults over the age of 18 have AUD.
- 5.3 million are women.
- 9.2 million are men.
- 20% of college students meet the criteria for AUD.
- Only 8% of AUD sufferers seek treatment.
- AUD can be diagnosed according to many criteria; generally, if a user meets any two of these criteria in a 12-month period, they likely have AUD.
- AUD sufferers drink more or longer than they intend to.
- People with AUD may try to quit or cut down on their drinking but are unable to.
- They experience cravings for or strong urges to drink.
- They continue to drink even when it is no longer enjoyable.
- They engage in risky behavior that puts their health and/or lives in jeopardy.
- They often experience veisalgia or are “hungover.”
- Drinking or intoxication interferes with their careers, hobbies, personal lives, or relationships.
- Over time, it takes more and more alcohol to make them intoxicated or “drunk.”
- They often don’t remember what happens when they drink or they “blackout.”
- They may drink to fall asleep.
- A lack of alcohol in their systems leads to withdrawal symptoms
General Alcohol Use Statistics
Many health professionals advocate total abstinence from alcohol. Alcohol usage is common in the United States, however, and federal law allows anyone over the age of 21 to drink legally. In recognition of this, healthcare professionals and regulatory institutions allow that caloric content from moderate doses of alcohol can be incorporated into a healthy diet.
- Individuals who do not drink alcohol are advised not to start drinking for any reason.
- 1-2 drinks in one day is considered moderate drinking.
- One serving of alcohol contains the equivalent of 14 grams or 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol.
- 30% of adults totally abstain from alcohol.
- 98 calories in one serving of alcohol come from alcohol alone.
- One serving of any type of alcohol varies in size based on the alcohol content.
- In general practice, however, a serving of alcohol or “drink” is determined by the average alcohol content.
- 12 ounces of beer (average 5% alcohol content).
- 8 ounces of malt liquor (average 7% alcohol content).
- 5 ounces of wine (average 12% alcohol content).
- 1.5 ounces of 80 proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits.
- Each of these has 98 calories from alcohol; any remaining calories are from other ingredients.
- Under certain circumstances, no one should consume alcohol.
- Anyone planning to drive should not drink.
- Certain medical conditions do not allow for any alcohol consumption.
- Certain medications should never be taken with alcohol.
- Recovering substance abusers should not consume any amount of alcohol.
- Anyone pregnant or trying to become pregnant should not drink.
Alcohol Abuse Among Americans
Recent data indicate that alcohol use and alcohol abuse are on the rise. In two years, the number of people abusing alcohol increased by 50 million.
- More than 1-in-4 adults over the age of 18 are binge drinkers.
- In 2018, nearly 140 million Americans over the age of 12 were regular alcohol users.
- 67.1 million regularly engaged in binge drinking.
- 16.6 million were heavy drinkers.
- Intoxication and alcohol abuse impair judgement and typically lead to dangerous behavior.
- 51% of college students who use alcohol have experienced a memory blackout.
- These students report learning later about a range of high-risk behavior they do not recall engaging in.
- Risky behaviors common among students experiencing a blackout include vandalism, unprotected sex, and drunk driving.
- 97,000 of students who are sexually assaulted each year report the assault occurred during an alcohol-related incident.
- 31% of driving deaths are the result of a drunk driver.
Underage Alcohol Use Facts and Statistics
Alcohol use by anyone under the age of 21 (legal age in the United States) is called “underage drinking.” Underage use of alcohol is particularly dangerous; it’s often a factor in the 3 leading causes of death among 15- to 24-year-olds (accidents, homicides, and suicides), and data indicate that underage alcohol users are more likely to become addicted than those who do not drink underage.
- Most people try alcohol for the fist time as teenagers.
- Any use of alcohol under the legally-approved age is considered excessive.
- Underage drinkers consume alcohol at a higher rate on average than legal drinkers.
- 2.2 million or 30% of adolescents (between 12 and 17 years of age) drink alcohol regularly.
- 1.2 million adolescents or 14% are regular binge drinkers.
- 6% admit to driving while intoxicated.
- 17% have ridden with an intoxicated driver.
- Underage drinkers are 7 times more likely to be in alcohol-related car accidents while driving.
- Just 5% of adolescents who suffer from AUD receive treatment.
- 4% of 8th graders drink regularly.
- 14% of 12th graders drink regularly.
Effects of Alcoholism
Alcohol negatively affects people from all walks of life. The number of alcohol-induced deaths is climbing, with and without including homicides and suicides in which alcohol is a factor.
Physical Health Consequences
The physical impact of long-term alcohol abuse varies from person to person but some of the body’s systems are more vulnerable than others to alcohol’s degenerative effects.
- Alcohol abuse damages multiple bodily systems.
|Some Systems Commonly Damaged by Alcohol Abuse|
|Cariovascular||Immune and Lymphatic|
|Gastrointestonal||Endocrine and Limbic|
- Liver damage is assured with prolonged alcohol use.
- At least 31% of alcohol-related deaths are caused by liver disease.
- Virtually all heavy drinkers develop a condition known as “fatty liver.”
- Alcohol is the leading cause of cirrhosis, affecting up to 20% of heavy drinkers.
- Cirrhosis is an irreversible condition that destroys the liver’s healthy cells and replaces them with scar tissue, eventually rendering the liver useless.
- Alcoholic hepatitis is less widely-known but more common than cirrhosis, affecting 35% of heavy drinkers.
- It’s well-understood that alcohol immediately impairs the brain’s function for a time; long-term use, however, causes permanent damage.
- Heavy drinkers experience brain shrinkage – the literal, physical shrinking of the brain – at greater rates than control groups.
- 80% of alcoholics develop a thiamine deficiency, which leads to a number of severe and/or incurable brain diseases.
- Alcohol inhibits the brain’s development and its ability to regrow cells.
- Using alcohol while pregnant can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the unborn, a congenital disorder.
- FAS causes the development of distinct physical characteristics.
- Children with FAS are often diagnosed with learning disabilities.
- Recent research suggests FAS may be treatable in utero using vitamin and antioxidant therapies.
- The kidneys suffer damage even in moderate or social drinkers.
- Once alcohol enters the human body, it must pass through the kidneys before it can be safely excreted.
- Dehydration caused by alcohol use disrupts the kidneys’ ability to filter the substance, subsequently worsening any hangover.
- Increased blood pressure is another side-effect of alcohol; high blood pressure is a known cause of kidney disease.
- The liver acts as a sort of “pre-filter” for the kidneys; if the liver is damaged, the kidneys have to work that much harder.
- Most people who are diagnosed with liver disease also develop kidney disease.
Alcohol-related deaths are increasing. In the past 20 years, annual deaths have more than doubled.
- Alcoholism is the third-leading cause of death in the United States.
- 88,000 people die every year in the united states from alcohol-related deaths.
- 3,200 of them are underage drinkers.
- Alcohol-related deaths are up 145% since 1999, when alcohol abuse killed 35,914 people.
- 18% of deaths are caused by overdoses of alcohol alone or alcohol in conjunction with other drugs.
- Alcohol poisoning kills six people every day.
- Excessive use of alcohol costs the average user 29 years of potential life.
- Annually, a collective 2.55 million years of potential life are lost.
- 76% of deaths from alcohol poisoning are among men.
- 68% of alcohol poisoning deaths are among non-Hispanic whites.
- 34% of people who die from alcohol poisoning are between the ages of 45 and 54.
Alcohol can induce or exacerbate mental conditions. A depressant, alcohol abuse is known to coincide with or correlate to certain mental disorders or illnesses including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Alcohol also interferes with medication that’s intended to treat such conditions.
- 40% of alcoholics suffer from a depressive disorder and/or major depressive episode (MDE).
- Symptoms of MDE include mood swings, troubling thoughts, negative behavior, impairment, and distress.
- 60% of alcoholics who experience a major depressive episode meet criteria for an alcohol-induced mood disorder.
- 80% of alcoholics suffer from mood disorders, which are essentially less serious mental disorders.
- Mood disorders, especially when paired with alcohol, share some symptoms with mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.
- End-stage alcoholism often includes alcoholic dementia.
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS) and Wernicke Encephalopathy are medical terms for alcoholic dementia.
- WKS leaves sufferers confused, unable to maintain balance or see, with persistent tremors.
- Alcohol-induced psychiatric disorders usually improve once the sufferer stops using alcohol.
- Alcoholism can also be a consequence of, and subsequently exacerbate, an existing mental disorder.
- Paranoid and schizophrenic personality disorders are the most common comorbidities.
- Because alcohol induces and exacerbates certain mental issues, it is difficult to tell if a disorder is an independent condition or a direct result of alcohol abuse.
- 2.1 million women in the US have a mental or substance abuse disorder.
- Adolescents who suffer an MDE are 70% more likely to also binge drink than their peers are.
- An inordinate amount of veterans suffer from both mental illness and substance abuse.
- Depression is the most common mental disorder among veterans.
- Anxiety, specifically Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is also highly common; anxiety and depression both correlate with alcohol abuse.
- 80% of veterans abuse or have abused alcohol.
- 7% struggle with polysubstance abuse that includes alcohol.
Social and Financial Consequences
The fiscal burden of alcohol, while seemingly inconsequential when compared to consequences of health and personal relationships, can be no less devastating. People have lost their life savings, their homes, friends, families, and jobs for reasons related to alcohol abuse.
- Alcohol abuse costs Americans $249 billion every year.
- Taxpayers cover 40% of that cost via state and federal programs and initiatives.
- Binge drinking accounts for 77% of the cost of alcohol abuse.
- Alcoholism costs California $35 billion each year.
- Most of the cost (72%) of alcohol abuse comes from a loss of productivity; 11% goes toward healthcare expenses.
- Loss of workplace productivity costs $179.28 billion every year.
- $27.39 billion goes toward healthcare for alcohol-related illnesses.
- $24.9 billion is used to prosecute alcohol-related offenses, such as drunk driving.
- Motor vehicle accidents themselves cost $12.45 billion annually.
- Excessive alcohol users pay an average of $2.05 per drink.
- New Mexico is the most expensive place to be an alcoholic, averaging $2.77 per drink.
- Among all drinkers, $800 each year is the average cost per person.
- 1-in-4 college students report their academics have suffered due to drinking.
- 696,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
Some people are more likely than others to go from social drinking to alcohol abuse. Certain characteristics – which can be natural, social, and/or systematic – have a stronger correlation with subsequent alcohol abuse. Often, an increased rate of alcoholism among a single group reflects socioeconomic obstacles that community faces.
- Underage drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems later in life.
- College students between the ages of 18 and 22 are 23% more likely to abuse alcohol than the rest of their age group.
- 54.9% of college students drink regularly compared to 44.6% of other people their own age.
- 36.9% of college students binge drink compared to 27.9% of all 18- to 22-year-olds.
- 9.6% of college students and 6.9% of their total age group drink heavily.
- 1,825 college students are injured in accidents related to alcohol abuse yearly.
- A current or previous addiction to another substance increases the likelihood of alcohol abuse.
- Children suffering the effects of FAS are more likely to become addicted to alcohol.
- More than 10% of children in the U.S. live with a parent who abuses alcohol.
- 64% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults abuse alcohol.
- Miller Brewing Company sponsors behavioral surveys of its customers; one such survey indicates that African Americans make 67% of malt liquor purchases.
- Sometimes seemingly inconsequential things, like where someone lives, can affect that person’s likelihood of developing an alcohol addiction.
- North Dakota has the highest percentage of binge drinkers per capita of any U.S. state.
- 24.9% of adults in North Carolina are binge drinkers.
- Wisconsin, Montana, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska are all among the top ten states for binge drinking.
- The Midwest produces more binge drinkers than any other region.
- At 10.9%, Tennesee has the smallest percentage of binge drinkers.
- West Virginia also has a lower percentage of binge drinkers.
- West Virginian binge drinkers, however, consume the most alcohol in a single drinking session.
- Among the 50 states, West Virginia suffers the greatest intensity of binge drinking.
- Binge drinkers in Arkansas drink more in a sitting than their peers in any other state.
Polysubstance abuse refers to the usage of multiple drugs. The term “gateway drug” has been used to describe substances that are commonly a factor in polysubstance abuse, such as alcohol.
- 20 million Americans over the age of 12 are polysubstance abusers.
- 5% of women struggle with both illegal drugs and alcohol.
- 73% or 14.8 million substance abusers over 12 years old are addicted to alcohol.
- Using alcohol with marijuana is called a “crossfade.”
- Crossfading increases alcohol impairment and speeds up absorption of the psychoactive compound in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
- Recent concerns over caffeinated alcoholic beverages have led to legislation outlawing such drinks.
International Alcohol Abuse Statistics
Alcohol abuse is a worldwide problem with some countries, including the US, disproportionately affected.
- Throughout the world, alcohol abuse is the leading cause of death among 15- to 49-year-olds.
- It is the fifth-leading cause of death and disability among all people.
- More than 5% of all disease and injury is attributable to alcohol abuse.
- Just under 6% of all deaths are attributable to alcohol abuse.
- Alcohol abuse kills 7.6% of all men.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Alcohol Facts and Statistics
- Kids Count Data Center, Total Population by Child and Adult Populations in the United States
- Center for Disease Control, Alcohol Use and Your Health
- NIAAA, Alcohol-Related Deaths Increasing in the United States
- NIAAA, Drinking Levels Defined
- U.S. Department of Health & U.S. Department of Agrilculture, Dietary Guidelines, Appendix 9. Alcohol
- U.S. Census Bureau, Public Data Visualization (Google)
- Worldometer, U.S. Population
- American Liver Foundation, Alcohol-Related Liver Disease
- NIAAA, Alcohol Alert: Alcohol’s Damaging Effects on the Brain
- National Kidney Foundation, Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Kidneys
- USA Today, America’s 25 Thriving Industries Include Goat Farming, Breweries
- NIAAA, Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders
- CDC, Alcohol and Public Health
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Research and Development: Mental Health
- CDC, Alcohol Poisoning Deaths
- NIH, Social and Cultural Contexts of Alcohol Use: Influences in a Social–Ecological Framework