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Alcohol Facts and Stats

Most people know that alcohol is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. But did you know that more people are addicted to alcohol than to all illicit drugs combined? And have you heard that 2,632 college students try alcohol for the first time each day? Read on to learn more surprising facts and statistics about alcohol.
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on November 15th 2017 with 15 sources

Quick Facts About Alcohol:

  • More than 216 million Americans have tried alcohol.
  • About 28 percent of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol.
  • One standard drink can stay in your system for about an hour.
  • The term alcoholism was first used in 1849 by the Swedish physician Magnus Huss.

How Many People Drink Alcohol?

Alcohol consumption is more common than use of tobacco or any illicit drug, including marijuana. About a quarter of Americans try alcohol before age 18, and more than three-quarters of adults try alcohol by age 25.

The following stats are from data gathered during the National Survey on Drug Use and Health that was published by the federal government in September 2017. Current alcohol use is measured by alcohol use during the past month.

For women, binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks on one occasion. Binge drinking for men involves having five or more drinks on one occasion. Heavy drinking occurs when someone binge drinks on five or more days in the past 30 days.

How Many People Experience Alcoholism?

Alcohol addiction is the most common type of substance use disorder in the United States. Substance use disorder is the medical term for addiction, and alcohol use disorder is the medical term for alcoholism. The latter condition affects about 5 percent of Americans each year.

Alcoholics aren’t defined by how many drinks they have each day. Medical professionals diagnose alcohol addiction with criteria that measure physical and behavioral changes caused by alcohol. Some types of alcoholics drink more than 12 beers each day, and some people who drink that much never develop an alcohol use disorder.

Unless otherwise specified, the following stats about the prevalence of alcoholism are from the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

It’s difficult to estimate how many people are in recovery from alcoholism. A 2012 study by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids estimated that 23 million Americans, or about 10 percent of all American adults, were in recovery from alcohol or other drug problems.

Deaths Caused by Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. Alcohol-related deaths include short-term causes of death, such as drunk driving and alcohol-involved violence. More people die from drug overdoses than from alcohol poisoning, but alcohol overdoses account for a small percentage of all alcohol-related deaths.

Most alcoholics die from long-term health problems caused by alcohol, such as liver disease, heart problems or cancer.

Alcohol is one of the most widely available and easily accessible addictive substances. When consumed responsibly, the risks are benign. However, people are often unable or unwilling to drink responsibly, and many of them experience serious consequences.

Teen Alcohol Facts and Stats

An estimated 11 percent of alcohol that’s consumed in the United States is consumed by people between the ages of 12 and 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although underage drinking is prevalent, fewer teens drink today than in previous decades.

“We have seen over the past few years significant decreases in the pattern of alcohol use that runs through all ages,” Dr. Nora Volkow said during a teleconference attended by She said that recent rates of teen binge drinking “are the lowest that we have seen.”

The 2016 Monitoring the Future survey published the following statistics on teen alcohol use:

“Needless to say, alcohol remains an important problem for adolescents and also for college students,” Dr. Lloyd Johnston said at the teleconference. “But at least the situation has improved.”

College Drinking Statistics

Binge drinking and other unhealthy forms of alcohol consumption are among the biggest concerns on college campuses. An estimated 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related injuries, according to the most recent numbers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The 2016 Monitoring the Future survey published the following statistics on college alcohol use:

Some colleges try to combat alcohol abuse by forbidding alcohol consumption on campus. Others teach students about the difference between casual drinking and alcohol abuse.

Chris Elkins, M.A.
Senior Content Writer,
Chris Elkins worked as a journalist for three years and was published by multiple newspapers and online publications. Since 2015, he’s written about health-related topics, interviewed addiction experts and authored stories of recovery. Chris has a master’s degree in strategic communication and a graduate certificate in health communication.
Joey Rosenberg

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