Alcohol Use & Abuse in the US
Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances in the U.S. The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which provides addiction statistics, offers the following alcohol facts: 85.6% of adults aged 18 and older reporting drinking alcohol at least once in their lives, with 69.5% reporting having had alcohol in the past year, and 54.9% having had alcohol in the past month.1
Binge drinking means having at least 5 drinks for a man or 4 drinks for a woman in around 2 hours, while heavy drinking means binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.1
According to the NSDUH, 25.8% of people aged 18 and older reported binge drinking in the past month. Binge drinking was reported by 29.7% of men and 22.2% of women in this age group. Furthermore, 6.3% of adults (8.3% men and 4.5% women) reported that they were heavy alcohol users in the past month.1
High-intensity drinking is an emerging trend. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines this pattern of drinking as consuming alcohol “at levels that are two or more times the gender-specific binge drinking thresholds.”
People who engage in this behavior are 70% more likely to visit the ER due to alcohol-related problems. People who drank 3 times the gender-specific threshold were 93% more likely to visit the ER for similar issues.1
Cost of Alcohol Abuse
In the U.S., the economic cost of excessive alcohol use is estimated to be around $29 billion in 2010, with $179 billion in workplace productivity costs, $28 billion in medical costs, $25 billion in criminal justice costs, and $13 billion in motor vehicle collisions.2
Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a clinical diagnosis of alcoholism, or alcohol addiction.1 The 2019 NSDUH estimated that 14.5 million people ages 12 and older had an AUD. According to the same data, an estimated 414,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 had an AUD.1
How Many People Die From Alcohol-Related Causes?
Alcohol is a significant cause of death in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 95,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related causes. That’s an average of 261 deaths per day.3 NIAAA reports that alcohol-related deaths are on the rise. The most recent statistics from NIAAA indicate that alcohol-related deaths increased from 35,914 in 1999 to 72,558 in 2017.4
In 2019, the CDC reports that the number of deaths due to alcoholic liver disease was 24,110, while the number of alcohol-induced deaths, not counting accidents and homicides, was 39,043.5
Underage Alcohol Abuse
Underage drinking is a serious public health concern in the U.S. The CDC reports that it is the cause of death in 3,500 people under age 21 every year. It is also responsible for an estimated 210,000 years of potential life lost in young people under age 21 each year. In 2010, underage drinking cost the U.S. $21 billion. In 2013, there were 119,000 ER visits in people aged 12-21 due to alcohol-related injuries.6
According to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, during the past 30 days, 29% of high school students drank alcohol, 14% engaged in binge drinking, 5% drove after drinking alcohol, and 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.6
As previously stated, binge drinking is relatively common in the U.S. It is especially common among younger people.
- In 2019, female high school students were more likely to binge drink than male students.6
- According to the 2019 NSDUH, around 4.2 million people ages 12 to 20 said they engaged in binge drinking in the past month, which equals 11.1% of young people aged 12-20, specifically, 10.4% of males and 11.8% of females.6
- 0% of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 reported binge drinking in the past month.
Alcohol Use By Demographic
Alcohol use in the past month. The 2019 NSDUH reports that in the 12-17 age range, the prevalence of past-month alcohol use declined from 17.6% (4.4 million) in 2002 to 9.4% (2.3 million) in 2019. In the 18-25 age range, past- month alcohol use declined from 61.4%, (19.5 million) in 2003 to 54.3% (18.3 million) in 2019. In the 26 and older age range, 55.0% (119.1 million) of people drank alcohol in the past month, similar to the numbers from 2002 through 2018.7
Binge drinking. The 2019 NSDUH reports that in people aged 12-17, the prevalence of past-month binge drinking decreased from 5.8%, (1.4 million) in 2015 to 4.9% (1.2 million) in 2019. Among people aged 18-25, past-month binge drinking decreased from 39.0% (13.6 million) in 2015 to 34.3% (11.6 million) in 2019. Among adults aged 26 and older, 24.5% (53.1 million) reported binge drinking in the past month, which is similar to the rate from 2015.7
Heavy alcohol use. In teens aged 12-17, past-month heavy alcohol use increased from 0.5% (131,000) in 2018 to 0.8% (208,000) in 2019. These rates were similar to those from 2015 to 2017. In 18- to 25-year-olds, the prevalence of past-month heavy alcohol use decreased from 10.9% (3.8 million) in 2015 to 8.4% (2.8 million) in 2019, less than 2015 or 2017 but similar to 2018. In those aged 26 or older, the percentage who were past-month heavy alcohol users stayed the same from 2015 to 2019. In 2019, 6.0% of adults aged 26 or older (13 million) were heavy alcohol users in the past month.7
The 2018 National Health Interview Survey indicates rates of current, regular users of alcohol, which is defined by having at least 12 drinks in a person’s lifetime and at least 12 drinks in the past year. The following percentages indicate current, regular users of alcohol among different racial groups:8
- 8% of White Americans.
- 7% of Black or African Americans.
- 3% of American Indian or Alaska Natives.
- 8% of Asian Americans.
- 2% of those who identified as both Black or African American and white.
- 9% of those who identified as both American Indian or Alaska Native and white.
- 7% of Hispanic or Latino Americans.
In general, men drink more than women, except among girls ages 12 to 20, who drink slightly more than males in their age range.9 The CDC reports that 59% of men report drinking in the past 30 days, compared with 47% of women. Men are twice as likely to binge drink, with 22% of men reporting binge drinking in the past month. In 2019, 7% of men and 4% of women had an AUD.10
Alcohol Abuse Among Veterans
Alcohol abuse is prevalent among Veterans. The 2017 NSDUH reports that veterans were more likely to use alcohol than non-Veterans (56.6% compared to 50.8% in a 1-month period). They were also more likely to report heavy use of alcohol (7.5% vs 6.5% in a 1-month period). Furthermore, 65% of Veterans who enter a substance abuse treatment program report that alcohol is their main substance of abuse.11
Alcoholism Treatment Statistics
Treatment for Alcoholism in the Past Year
By Age: The 2019 NSDUH reports the numbers of people who needed substance use treatment, including alcoholism treatment. In those aged 12 to 17, 4.6% (1.1 million) needed substance use treatment in the past year. In those aged 18 to 25, 14.4% (4.8 million) needed substance use treatment in the past year. In those aged 26 or older, 7.2% (15.6 million) needed substance use treatment in the past year.7
Receipt of treatment: Out of the 21.6 million people aged 12 or older who needed substance use treatment in the previous year, 12.2% (2.6 million) received substance use treatment at a specialty facility in the past year.7
By setting: 2.1 million people received substance use treatment at a self-help group (like AA), 1.7 million at an outpatient rehab, 1.3 million at an outpatient mental health center, 1 million at an inpatient rehab, 948,000 at a doctor’s office, 642,000 at a hospital inpatient setting, 514,000 at an ER, and 254,000 at a prison or jail.7 In people aged 12 or older who had a past-year substance use disorder (including AUD), 10.3%, or 2.1 million people, received any substance use treatment in the past year. Furthermore, in the same age group, 1.0%, or 2.6 million people, received substance use treatment at a specialty facility in the past year.7
Reasons for not getting treatment: People who needed substance use treatment but did not receive it reported the following reasons: 39.9% said they were not ready to stop using, 23.8% said they didn’t know where to go for treatment, and 20.9% had no insurance coverage or couldn’t afford treatment.7
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): In 2019, 2.5 million people age 12 or older received alcohol use treatment (whether they had an AUD or not) in any setting in the past year. Approximately 11.3%, or 286,000, received MAT for alcohol use. Out of the 1.1 million people age 12 or older in 2019 who had a past-year AUD and received alcohol use treatment in any setting in the past year, 20.7%, or 228,000 people, received MAT for alcohol use.7
. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). Alcohol Facts and Statistics.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Alcohol Use: Facts & Resources.
. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Deaths from Excessive Alcohol Use in the U.S.
. National Institutes of Health. (2020). Alcohol-related deaths increasing in the United States.
. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Alcohol Use.
. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Underage Drinking.
. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP20-07-01-001, NSDUH Series H-55).
. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Summary Health Statistics: National Health Interview Survey, 2018.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Substance Use in Women Research Report: Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use.
. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Excessive Alcohol Use is a Risk to Men’s Health.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Substance Use and Military Life DrugFacts: General Risk of Substance Use Disorders.