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.
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.
Unless otherwise specified, the following stats 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. But alcohol also causes long-term health problems that kill thousands of people each year.
- About 88,000 deaths per year are caused by alcohol, per a 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
- 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2015, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report published in December 2016.
- 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.
Chris Elkins is a senior writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. In addition to covering the latest substance abuse trends and medical advances, he tells the stories of individuals in recovery in order to share their stories of hope and courage. If you have a story idea for Chris, please email him.
- Ahrnsbrak, R. et al. (2017, September). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.htm
- Alcoholics Anonymous. (2017, August). Estimated Worldwide A.A. Individual and Group Membership. Retrieved from https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-132_en.pdf
- Feliz, J. (2012, March 6). Survey: Ten Percent of American Adults Report Being in Recovery from Substance Abuse or Addiction. Retrieved from https://drugfree.org/newsroom/news-item/survey-ten-percent-of-american-adults-report-being-in-recovery-from-substance-abuse-or-addiction/
- Lipari, R.N. & Jean-Francois, B. (2016, May 26). A Day in the Life of College Students Aged 18 to 22: Substance Use Facts. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2361/ShortReport-2361.html
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- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2016, December). Alcohol-Impaired Driving. Retrieved from https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/Publication/812350
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2017, June). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
- Nelson, D.E. et al. (2013, April). Alcohol-attributable cancer deaths and years of potential life lost in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23409916
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- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017, September 7). Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016.pdf