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Alcohol Facts and Stats

Most people know 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? Read on to learn more surprising facts and stats about alcohol.
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When consumed responsibly, alcohol causes mild effects. But people who aren’t familiar with the substance can lose control of how much they drink. Learning the facts about alcohol can help you drink responsibly.

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.

  • 136.7 million Americans ages 12 and older drink alcohol.
  • 2.3 million youths ages 12 to 17 drink alcohol.
  • 65.3 million people ages 12 and older binge drink.
  • 16.3 million people ages 12 and older drink heavily.
  • 85 percent of adults have used alcohol during their lifetime.

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:

  • 15.1 million Americans ages 12 and older had an alcohol use disorder in 2016.
  • 488,000 youths between the ages of 12 and 17 had an alcohol use disorder in 2016.
  • 2.3 million people ages 12 and older received treatment for an alcohol use disorder in 2016.
  • 1.1 million people ages 12 and older received treatment for both alcoholism and an illicit drug use disorder in 2016.
  • 2.1 million people across the world were members of the Alcoholics Anonymous support group in 2016, according to AA’s General Service Office.

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.

  • About 88,000 deaths per year are caused by alcohol, per a 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
  • 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2016, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report published in October 2017.
  • About 19,500, or 3.5 percent, of all cancer deaths in the United States were related to alcohol in 2009, according to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
  • 38.1 percent of people killed by homicide or law enforcement in 2013 tested positive for alcohol, according to data from the National Violent Death Reporting System.
  • 38.2 percent of people who died by suicide in 2013 tested positive for alcohol, according to data from the National Violent Death Reporting System.

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 DrugRehab.com. 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:

  • 61 percent of 12th-graders have tried alcohol during their lifetime.
  • 56 percent of 12th-graders drank alcohol in the past year.
  • 33 percent of 12th-graders drank alcohol in the past 30 days.

“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:

  • 81 percent of college students have tried alcohol during their lifetime.
  • 79 percent of college students drank alcohol in the past year.
  • 63 percent of college students drank alcohol in the past 30 days.

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.

Author
Chris Elkins, MA
Senior Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
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.
@ChrisTheCritic9
Editor
Joey Rosenberg
Joey Rosenberg,
Editor, DrugRehab.com
Medical Reviewer
Ashraf Ali
Psychiatrist, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health

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