Alcohol Abuse Statistics

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is the most common substance use disorder in the United States. AUD is a serious medical condition sometimes referred to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and alcoholism. People suffering from AUD experience an inability to control their alcohol use even after alcohol has caused negative consequences in their lives.

Alcohol Use Is Prevalent

More people have used alcohol in the past year than any other drug or tobacco product.

Alcohol Abuse Statistics according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

  • 85.6% of people ages 18 and older have drank alcohol in their lifetime
  • 69.5% have drank alcohol in the past year
  • 54.9% have drank in the past month
  • 5.6% or 14.1 million adults suffered from alcohol use disorder
  • An estimated 1.7% or 414,000 adolescents ages 12-17 had alcohol use disorder

However, we often assume that nearly everybody drinks alcohol—but statistically, that just isn’t true. Alcohol use in the US can generally be broken into thirds:

  • 1/3 of individuals are light to moderate alcohol users
  • 1/3 are considered unhealthy drinkers (binge drinking, heavy drinking, or high-intensity drinking)
  • 1/3 do not consume alcohol at all

The Dangers of Alcohol Abuse by the Numbers

Drinking alcohol is common but can be incredibly dangerous when done irresponsibly. Alcohol can also be extremely addictive and cause major health problems to frequent users.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is the act of drinking large quantities of alcohol in one sitting. Some national organizations define binge drinking as having 4 or 5 drinks within 2 hours. Binge drinking can cause health problems, vehicle accidents, alcohol poisoning, and other preventable issues, and even deaths.

  • 1 in 6 US adults binge drink about 4 times a month (consuming about 7 drinks per binge).
  • 17 billion binge drinks are consumed by adults annually or 467 drinks per binge drinker.
  • 25.8% of people 18 and older reported binge drinking in the past month
  • 6.3% reported heavy alcohol use in the past month

Impaired Driving

Driving while impaired from alcohol is incredibly dangerous and can be deadly. A driver is considered alcohol-impaired when their blood alcohol concentration is .08 grams per deciliter or higher.

  • 29 people per day (or one every 50 minutes) die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver in the U.S.
  • $44 billion dollars are spent on alcohol-related crashes each year in the U.S.
  • 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2016
  • 28% percent of all traffic-related deaths in 2016 involved alcohol-impaired driving.
  • 17% of traffic deaths among children (ages 0 to 14) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

Death and Other Risks

Alcohol abuse is common and incredibly dangerous. Alcohol contributes to thousands of deaths and diseases each year.

  • About 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually
  • Alcohol is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. (after tobacco and poor diet)
  • 18.5% of Emergency Department visits are alcohol-related
  • 22.1% of prescription opioid overdose deaths involve alcohol
  • 43.1% of liver disease deaths in 2019 involved alcohol
  • 49.5% of cirrhosis deaths in 2015 involved alcohol
  • 1 in 3 liver transplants from 2010 to 2016 were the result of alcohol-related liver disease

Alcohol Abuse Statistics in Young People

The most commonly used substance in young people in the U.S. is alcohol. While drinking is commonplace for young people, it can be detrimental to their future mental and physical health. People who start drinking at a young age are more likely to form alcohol use disorder later in life.

People who begin drinking before age 15 are 5x more likely to develop alcohol use disorder than those who waited until age 21 to start.

Alcohol Use Disorder by Age (in 2019):

  • 1.7% ages 12-17
  • 9.3% ages 18-25
  • 5.1% 26 or older

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there is still some good news for the adolescent age group. With respect to alcohol use within the past 30 days, this number has decreased in the past two decades (2002 to 2019):

  • Down 41% in adolescents ages 16 to 17
  • Down 55% in adolescents ages 14 to 15
  • Down 62% in adolescents ages 12 to 13

Annual Alcohol-related Deaths in Young People Under Age 21:

  • 1,092 from motor vehicle accidents
  • 1,000 from homicide
  • 208 from alcohol overdose, falls, burns, and drowning
  • 596 from suicide

Binge Drinking Among Young People –  Facts and Statistics:

  • Adults ages 18 to 34 are most likely to binge drink out of any age group.
  • Most people under age 21 who drink alcohol, also binge drink.
  • In 2020,
  • Adolescents are more likely to drink alcohol if their parents binge drink.
  • A 5% increase in adult binge drinking is associated with a 12% increase in youth binge drinking proving that adult drinking behavior influences youth drinking behavior.

According to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, high school students admitted to doing the following in the past 30 days:

  • 29% drank alcohol
  • 14% binge drank
  • 17% rode in a vehicle with a driver who had been drinking
  • 5%  of those who drove, drove after drinking

Drinking Among Adolescents in 2020 – Annual Monitoring the Future Survey

8th Graders 10th Graders 12th Graders
Lifetime 25.6% 46.4% 61.5%
Past Year 20.5% 40.7% 55.3%
Past Month 9.9% 20.3% 33.6%
Daily 0.4% 1.0% 2.7%
Binge Drinking 4.5% 9.6% 16.8%

Alcohol Addiction Statistics in Women vs. Men

Men are more likely to drink alcohol, become addicted to alcohol, binge drink, drink more often, and die of alcohol-related causes than women.

Key Alcohol Use and Abuse Statistics by Gender:

  • 7% of men in 2019 had alcohol use disorder compared to only 4% of women.
  • About 59% of adult men and only 47% of adult women reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days
  • Men have higher rates of alcohol-related hospitalizations
  • Almost ¾ of excessive drinking deaths are among males (about 68,000 deaths per year)
  • Men are 3x more likely to die by suicide than women and more likely to have been drinking prior.

Binge Drinking Statistics by Gender

  • Men are almost 2x as likely to binge drink than women
  • About 22% of men report binge drinking
  • Men binge drink 5x a month on average, drinking 8 drinks per binge.
  • 4 out of 5 total binge drinks are consumed by men

Alcohol Use During Pregnancy Statistics

While men are more likely to abuse alcohol, women who abuse alcohol have the added complication of potential pregnancy. Drinking alcohol while pregnant can be dangerous to the fetus and cause developmental issues in children. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in people whose mothers drank alcohol while pregnant.

  • 11.3% of pregnant women ages 18-44 reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days in 2018, this was an increase from 9.2% in 2011.
  • 4.0% of pregnant women ages 18-44 reported binge drinking in the past 30 days in 2018, an increase from 2.5% in 2011.
  • About 1 in 9 pregnant women reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days.
  • About ⅓ of pregnant women who reported drinking also reported binge drinking.
  • Pregnant women who binge drank, drank 4.5 drinks on average per episode.
  • While it is difficult to estimate how many children are born with FASDs, some estimates say 1-5% of school children in the U.S. may have one.

Alcohol Treatment Types and How to Get Help

Alcohol abuse, alcohol use disorder, alcohol addiction, and binge drinking are all serious and should be treated as soon as possible.

Only about 7.2% of people who had alcohol use disorder in the past year received treatment in the past year.

Alcohol addiction treatment is widespread and can be customized to your specific needs. If you or someone you know needs help do not hesitate to contact us for more information about treatment programs near you.

Reviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Addiction Guide and ensures the quality of our website’s content and messaging.

Written by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

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