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The American Drinking Problem: Facts and Statistics

Does the US Have a Drinking Problem?

Does the US have a drinking problem? Our blog examines the American drinking problem with stats, figures, and more. Don't miss it!

A friend or family member extends a glass of champagne to toast a newlywed pair. Co-workers or acquaintances gather on weekends to share, drink, and unwind. A host represents an antique bottle of wine to complement a spectacular meal.

Such is the presence of alcohol in our lives, and when one thinks about drinking in America, these pictures instantly spring to mind. Other harsher pictures of drinking include a drunk driver losing control of a vehicle, a family feud caused by drunkenness turning into a brutal episode, an executive skipping work owing to recurrent hangovers, and a homeless man holding a bottle on a busy street.

These visuals merely scratch the surface of what liquor represents in America. These are, nevertheless, sufficient to establish a crucial point: alcoholism is a prevalent and deeply ingrained element of American life. Amid efforts from the authorities and other organizations to influence or even eradicate drinking, alcoholic drinks have been regularly enjoyed across American history.

By the Numbers:

Alcohol ranks among the most widely consumed beverages on the planet. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 139.7 million Americans regularly drink alcohol, nearly fifty percent of the total population in 2019. Regrettably, it is frequently exploited. According to the NSDUH, approximately 16 million Americans were excessive alcohol consumers, with 14.5 million having an alcohol use disorder. The anxiety and loneliness brought on by the COVID-19 epidemic may have intensified these figures.

Alcohol abuse is synonymous with drunkenness, problem drinking, and alcohol addiction. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), this illness leads to over 200 distinct health disorders and alcohol-related accidents. Additionally, alcohol abuse costs the United States some $250 billion every year.

Many people enjoy their first alcoholic drink before age 18, and they may be uninformed of the consequences of consuming too much alcohol. Teenage alcohol intake can have long-term negative consequences on cognitive development. Since everyone's situations vary, it's critical to learn important alcohol terminology, figures, and realities.

Want to learn more about addiction statistics? Check out our addiction statistics page for even more data about drug and alcohol use.

A Short History: American Drinking

Americans have always enjoyed a drink. In the 18th century, right around the Revolutionary War, the average American was drinking around 3.5 gallons of alcohol a year. That's twice as high as the modern rate. Toward the end of the 18th century, the new American government enacted the first tax on a domestic product: the whiskey tax. This triggered a short war in western Pennsylvania called the Whiskey Rebellion.

Drinking actually increased during the 19th century. By some accounts, Americans over the age of 15 were consuming seven gallons of alcohol each year. In 1919, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted, which banned the sale, importation, transportation, and manufacturing of alcoholic beverages. Prohibition, which by and large was a failure, ended in 1933 with the enactment of the 21st Amendment.

After World War II, drinking became popular again. The US has a low alcohol use rate compared to many developed countries. Many European countries and Australia drink more than we do. However, the US also has a higher rate of alcohol abuse than those countries.

Discussing Alcohol Statistics Based on Age

Different age groups consume alcohol at varying levels in America. Young adults aged 18 to 25 years and adults aged 26 years and older had a higher rate of regular alcohol intake than elderly individuals aged 65 and older or adolescents aged 12 to 17. Frequent drinking sessions entail consuming five or more drinks in one sitting in the previous month for men and four glasses for women. Intense liquor consumption is defined as binge drinking on five or more days in the previous month.

Younger adults had the highest rates of continuous drinking and excessive alcohol consumption. The below-mentioned figures are based on the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). 

Statistics on Adult Alcohol Abuse

Among young individuals aged 18-25:

  • 54.3 percent of young adults indicated frequent alcohol intake.

  • Nearly 34.3% of emerging adults admitted binge drinking in the previous month.

  • In the previous month, about 8.4% of youth indicated high alcohol usage.

It is commonly known that alcohol affects the mind's capacity for functioning. Because the brain doesn't completely mature until age 25, younger adults should drink with extreme care.

Among people aged 26 and onward:

  • Around 55.0% of individuals said that they were actively drinking alcohol.

  • Over 24.5% of individuals admitted drinking to excess in the previous month.

  • Around 6.0% of people reported excessive alcohol usage in the previous month.

According to the NIAAA, heavy alcohol intake in adults is related to a heightened incidence of cervical, throat, esophagus, hepatic, and intestinal tumors in both men and women, along with an elevated probability of developing breast cancer in women. In addition, the American Cancer Society advocates abstaining from alcohol entirely in updated procedures.

Statistics on Teen Alcohol Usage

Data on alcohol use among adolescents aged 12 to 17 show:

  • 9.4% of participants said they were presently drinking.

  • In the previous month, 4.9% of teenagers admitted to binge drinking.

  • In the previous month, 0.8% of teenagers acknowledged excessive use of alcohol.

In its study on underage drinking, the NIAAA concluded that alcohol could affect sex hormones and postpone maturation in adolescents, especially those in the pre-pubescent period.

Statistics on Underage Alcohol Use

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.0 million teenagers aged 12 to 20 reported consuming liquor, regardless of the reality that it is forbidden for this age bracket. Around 4.2 million present teenage alcohol users reported drunkenness, whereas 825,000 claimed chronic alcohol usage.

Alcohol Statistics in Older Adults

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), among elders aged 65 and ahead:

  • 65% of older adults showed significant drinking, meaning they surpassed regular limits at least once per week.

  • And over 10% of older people drink excessively.

  • Alcohol abuse disorders throughout this age category more than doubled between 2001 and 2013.

According to the NIAAA, as people age, their drinking capacity decreases. As a result, older people, especially those who combine alcohol and drugs, may experience more intense symptoms than their younger peers. Also, elders who drink heavily are far more inclined to have medical concerns.

For older persons, consuming more than 3 glasses daily or seven glasses per week might result in additional health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, cognitive problems, psychiatric symptoms, and cardiovascular disease.

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Discussing Alcohol Statistics Based on Gender

In addition to numerous epidemiological factors, physiological differences between men and women influence how alcohol is digested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the following gender-specific alcohol usage figures in two of its key studies on alcohol risk in men and women:

  • Men have a greater tendency than women to be regular alcoholics.

  • Men have a greater probability than women of consuming excessive quantities of alcohol.

  • Males are more likely than women to be hospitalized for alcohol-related reasons.

  • Males are nearly twice as likely as women to drink to excess.

  • Men have a greater tendency than women to attempt suicide following excessive drinking.

  • After consuming the same quantity of alcohol, women had higher blood alcohol content than men.

  • Alcohol causes greater long-term medical conditions in women, such as liver damage and perceptual loss.

  • Around 10% of pregnant women consumed alcohol, with 4.5% heavy drinking.

Discussing Alcohol Misuse in Firefighters and Veterans

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed in its Supplemental Research Bulletin that firemen, first responders, and warriors are frequently subjected to trauma as part of their day-to-day lives. This can increase their tendency to use liquor as an inappropriate coping mechanism:

  • 85% of firefighters said they had consumed alcohol in the previous month

  • In the previous month, 50% of firemen claimed excessive or heavy drinking

  • 9% of firemen admitted to consuming alcohol while driving

According to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), firefighters consume alcohol for roughly half of their off-duty hours. 

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Discussing Alcohol Statistics Based on Employment Status

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) examined over 130 papers and discovered correlations between joblessness and drug dependence. Jobless people, in particular, are 87% more prone than working individuals to indicate excessive drinking of alcohol and 29% more susceptible to developing alcohol dependence. Unemployment in the previous year was additionally connected to rises in:

Per day alcohol consumption, on average, by a human being 

  • The regularity of alcohol drinking

  • The probability of an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in an individual

  • Statistics on Alcohol-Related Deaths and Other Health Implications 

Annually, heavy alcohol usage causes millions of collisions and fatalities in the U.S. As reported by the NIAAA, alcohol is the third leading risk factor for fatalities in this country. According to the CDC, alcohol is responsible for more than 95,000 fatalities in the U.S. annually. Each day, 261 people die. Some of these conditions are linked to the long-term consequences of alcohol abuse, such as liver failure, cardiovascular disease, and certain malignancies. Yet, a significant amount is due to a temporary effect which is alcohol intoxication. CDC has further stated that

  • Every year, over 2,200 people die from excessive alcohol consumption.

  • Those aged 35 to 64 are the most commonly killed by alcohol poisoning.

  • Non-Hispanic Caucasian Americans make up the majority of those who suffer from drinking too much alcohol

Data on Drunk Driving

The CDC concluded in their study on impaired driving that drinking alcohol can jeopardize well beyond a single life as numerous individuals harm themselves or others while under the influence of alcohol. Every 50 minutes, a person living in America dies in an automobile accident caused by alcohol. Additional informative drinking and driving figures are:

  • Every day, 29 people are tragically killed in crashes involving a drunk driver

  • In 2016, alcohol-related fatalities accounted for roughly 30% of all traffic-related casualties

  • In 2016, one million drivers were imprisoned for negligent driving caused by substances such as alcohol or opiates

  • Alcohol-related car crashes result in a national loss of $44 billion annually

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Treatment of Alcoholism and Withdrawal Management

An individual in need of alcohol rehabilitation treatment may be the only one to admit they is battling with a condition. Whether or not the alcoholic refuses help, close relatives can seek aid from organizations such as Al-Anon. Numerous comparable substance and alcohol recovery centers offer counseling to family and friends to understand how and where to help and empathize with the dependent people.

n important component of such treatment is holding the alcoholic responsible for the consequences of their conduct and assisting the family in no longer shielding the user from alcoholism.

Alcohol abuse therapy begins by supporting the user in acknowledging that they have a problem that requires treatment. When an alcoholic decides to stop drinking, recovery may occur in an outpatient drug rehab program (which includes frequent counseling sessions) or in an inpatient drug rehab (where therapy and treatment are more rigorous). Almost all rehabilitation programs see alcoholism as a serious, progressive illness, and most programs involve abstinence from alcoholic beverages and other substances and alcohol misuse.

Alcohol and drug detox is commonly regarded as the first stage of alcohol abuse treatment. It will help you through the difficult work of alcohol withdrawal but not address the patterns of thought and behavior that promote alcohol consumption. Following detoxification, numerous therapy treatments can help provide the ongoing assistance needed to maintain long-term stability and overcome alcoholism.

Staying in an institution for the duration of therapy while receiving 24-hour assistance and rigorous counseling in communal and personal discussions is referred to as intensive or residential care.

Outpatient treatment comprises living at home and receiving frequent group and individual psychological counseling. This allows you to use what you've learned in treatment in real-world situations while dealing with challenges.

Individuals experiencing more severe side effects (i.e., CIWA-Ar readings of 8 to 15 or higher) should seek medicine to ease their symptoms and reduce their risk of convulsions and DTs. Benzodiazepines have the highest safety and efficacy ratings.

The intensity of alcohol withdrawal varies widely and can be frightening. Using evaluation and screening methods, clinicians cannot predict who will or will not have life-threatening conditions. Individuals who have mild or common alcohol withdrawal symptoms or are concerned about the long-term effects of withdrawal will benefit from the advice of a doctor or practitioner who has been trained to examine and treat those in withdrawal.

Individuals experiencing mild to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or those at risk for developing moderate to severe symptoms (for example, if you've previously experienced extreme physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms), usually require acute hospital treatment and withdrawal effect monitoring at a critical care medical center or detox-equipped institution. Although outpatient treatment for mild-to-moderate alcohol withdrawal may be offered, inpatient therapy may be necessary if difficulties become severe. Other resources for post-detoxification include:

  • Community counseling, support groups, family therapy, cognitive counseling such as dialectical behavior therapy, and personalized therapy

  • 12-step initiatives, such as Alcoholics Anonymous

  • Membership in other mutual help associations, such as Smart Recovery

Think You Have a Drinking Problem? Talk to The Edge Treatment Center

Alcohol addiction can seem hopeless. It isn't. With the right help, alcoholism is treatable and manageable. If you're tired of alcohol abuse, reach out to us. Our mix of cutting-edge addiction science and evidence-based treatment will give you the tools and resources you need to leave alcohol abuse behind forever.

Want to learn more about how The Edge Treatment Center effectively treats alcohol abuse and more? Contact us today.

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Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

Addiction Recovery


Trends and Statistics

March 31, 2023