Alcohol

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Page last updated Oct. 13, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

1. Prevalence of Current Alcohol Use in the US

"In 2017, 140.6 million Americans aged 12 or older were current alcohol users, 66.6 million were binge drinkers in the past month, and 16.7 million were heavy drinkers in the past month (Figure 5). Thus, nearly half of current alcohol users were binge drinkers (47.4 percent), and 1 in 8 current alcohol users were heavy drinkers (11.9 percent). Among binge drinkers, about 1 in 4 (25.1 percent) were heavy drinkers.24

"Any Alcohol Use
"The 140.6 million current alcohol users aged 12 or older in 2017 (Figure 5) correspond to alcohol use in the past month by slightly more than half (51.7 percent) of people aged 12 or older (Figure 6). The 2017 estimate of past month alcohol use was similar to the estimates in most years between 2005 and 2015, but it was higher than the estimate in 2016 (50.7 percent)."

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 18-5068, NSDUH Series H-53). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/ns...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/re...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/si...

2. Prevalence of "Heavy" Alcohol Use in the US

"An estimated 16.7 million people aged 12 or older in 2017 who were heavy alcohol users in the past month (Figure 5), which represents 6.1 percent of the population aged 12 or older (Figure 7). In 2017, 174,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 were current heavy drinkers. Stated another way, about 1 out of 140 adolescents (0.7 percent) engaged in binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past 30 days. About 1 out of every 10 young adults aged 18 to 25 (9.6 percent) were current heavy alcohol drinkers. This percentage corresponds to 3.3 million young adults who engaged in heavy drinking in the past month. An estimated 6.2 percent of adults aged 26 or older in 2017 were current heavy drinkers. This percentage corresponds to about 13.2 million adults aged 26 or older who engaged in heavy drinking in the past month."

Note: According to SAMHSA, "Consistent with federal definitions21 and other federal data collections, the NSDUH definition for binge alcohol use since 2015 differs for males and females. Binge drinking for males is defined as drinking five or more drinks22 on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days, which is unchanged from the threshold prior to 2015. Since 2015, binge alcohol use for females has been defined as drinking four or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days. Heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past 30 days based on the thresholds that were described previously for males and females.

"Any alcohol use, binge drinking, and heavy drinking are not mutually exclusive categories of use; heavy use is included in estimates of binge and current use, and binge use is included in estimates of current use (Figure 5). Because of the 2015 changes to the definition of binge alcohol use in NSDUH, estimates of past month binge and heavy alcohol use in 2017 are not comparable with estimates prior to 2015. Therefore, estimates of binge and heavy alcohol use are presented in this report only for 2017.23"

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 18-5068, NSDUH Series H-53). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/ns...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/re...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/si...

3. Prevalence of Binge Alcohol Use in the US

"In 2017, about 1 in 4 people aged 12 or older (24.5 percent) were current binge alcohol users (Figure 7). This percentage corresponds to about 66.6 million binge drinkers who were aged 12 or older (Figure 5). About 1.3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 were past month binge drinkers, which corresponds to 5.3 percent of adolescents. Thus, about 1 in 20 adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 2017 were current binge drinkers. An estimated 36.9 percent of young adults aged 18 to 25 were binge drinkers in the past month, which corresponds to about 12.7 million young adults. Stated another way, more than a third of young adults in 2017 were current binge drinkers. About a quarter (24.7 percent) of adults aged 26 or older were current binge drinkers. This percentage corresponds to about 52.7 million adults in this age group who were binge drinkers."

Note: According to SAMHSA, "Consistent with federal definitions21 and other federal data collections, the NSDUH definition for binge alcohol use since 2015 differs for males and females. Binge drinking for males is defined as drinking five or more drinks22 on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days, which is unchanged from the threshold prior to 2015. Since 2015, binge alcohol use for females has been defined as drinking four or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days. Heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past 30 days based on the thresholds that were described previously for males and females.

"Any alcohol use, binge drinking, and heavy drinking are not mutually exclusive categories of use; heavy use is included in estimates of binge and current use, and binge use is included in estimates of current use (Figure 5). Because of the 2015 changes to the definition of binge alcohol use in NSDUH, estimates of past month binge and heavy alcohol use in 2017 are not comparable with estimates prior to 2015. Therefore, estimates of binge and heavy alcohol use are presented in this report only for 2017.23"

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 18-5068, NSDUH Series H-53). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/ns...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/re...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/si...

4. Definitions of Heavy and Binge Drinking According To SAMHSA

"Consistent with federal definitions21 and other federal data collections, the NSDUH definition for binge alcohol use since 2015 differs for males and females. Binge drinking for males is defined as drinking five or more drinks22 on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days, which is unchanged from the threshold prior to 2015. Since 2015, binge alcohol use for females has been defined as drinking four or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days. Heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past 30 days based on the thresholds that were described previously for males and females.

"Any alcohol use, binge drinking, and heavy drinking are not mutually exclusive categories of use; heavy use is included in estimates of binge and current use, and binge use is included in estimates of current use (Figure 5). Because of the 2015 changes to the definition of binge alcohol use in NSDUH, estimates of past month binge and heavy alcohol use in 2017 are not comparable with estimates prior to 2015. Therefore, estimates of binge and heavy alcohol use are presented in this report only for 2017.23"

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 18-5068, NSDUH Series H-53). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/ns...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/re...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/si...

5. Rates Of Alcohol-Induced Deaths In The US Increased From 2008 To 2018

"• Age-adjusted rates of alcohol-induced deaths among all persons aged 25 and over were stable from 2000 to 2006 at about 10.7 per 100,000, then increased 43% to 15.3 in 2018 (Figure 1).

"• For males aged 25 and over, rates were stable from 2000 to 2005, then increased 34% from 2005 through 2018, from 16.9 to 22.6.

"• For females aged 25 and over, rates increased 76% from 2000 through 2018, from 4.9 to 8.6.

"• For each year, rates of alcohol-induced deaths for males aged 25 and over were higher than for females."

Spencer MR, Curtin SC, Hedegaard H. Rates of alcohol-induced deaths among adults aged 25 and over in rural and urban areas: United States, 2000–2018. NCHS Data Brief, no 383. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...

6. Alcohol as a Factor in Overdose Deaths Attributed to Other Drugs in the US

"In 2014, alcohols, including ethanol and isopropyl alcohol, were involved in 15% of all drug overdose deaths and 17% of the drug overdose deaths that mentioned involvement of at least one specific drug. Table E shows the frequency of alcohol involvement among drug overdose deaths involving specific drugs.

"• Alcohol involvement was mentioned in 12%–22% of the drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl, heroin, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, alprazolam, diazepam, or cocaine.

"• Alcohol involvement was mentioned in less than 10% of the drug overdose deaths involving methadone and methamphetamine."

Warner M, Trinidad JP, Bastian BA, et al. Drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths: United States, 2010–2014. National vital statistics reports; vol 65 no 10. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016, pp. 5-6.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...

7. Alcohol Use by 50 Year Olds in the US

"Alcohol consumption is relatively high among 50-year-olds, with over two thirds (68%) indicating that they consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the prior 30 days, 11% reporting current daily drinking (defined as drinking on 20 or more occasions in the prior 30 days), and 19% indicating recent occasions of heavy drinking (defined as five or more drinks in a row on at least one occasion in the prior two weeks). The rate of recent occasions of heavy drinking is much lower than was exhibited by members of this cohort when they were of high school and college ages."

Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2012). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2011: Volume II, College students and adults ages 19–50. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, p. 35.
http://www.monitoringthefuture...

8. Prevalence of Current Alcohol Use In The US, 2015

"In 2015, 138.3 million Americans aged 12 or older reported current use of alcohol, 66.7 million reported binge alcohol use in the past month, and 17.3 million reported heavy alcohol use in the past month (Figure 21). Thus, nearly half of current alcohol users reported binge alcohol use (48.2 percent), and about 1 in 8 current alcohol users reported heavy alcohol use (12.5 percent). Among binge alcohol users, about 1 in 4 (26.0 percent) were heavy users.
"Current Alcohol Use
"The estimate of 138.3 million current alcohol users aged 12 or older in 2015 (Figure 21) corresponds to alcohol use in the past month by slightly more than half (51.7 percent) of people aged 12 or older (Figure 22). The 2015 estimate of past month alcohol use was similar to the estimate in 2005 to 2013, but it was lower than the 2014 estimate."

Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 16-4984, NSDUH Series H-51), p. 18. Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/si...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/si...

9. Alcohol-Induced Mortality in the US, by Gender and Race/Ethnicity

"In 2016, a total of 34,865 persons died of alcohol-induced causes in the United States (Tables 5, 6, 8, and I–2). This category includes deaths from dependent and nondependent use of alcohol, as well as deaths from accidental poisoning by alcohol. It excludes unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to alcohol use, as well as deaths due to fetal alcohol syndrome. For a list of alcohol-induced causes, see Technical Notes.

"The age-adjusted death rate for alcohol-induced causes for the total population increased significantly, by 4.4% from 9.1 in 2015 to 9.5 in 2016 (Tables 5, 10, and I–2). For males, the age-adjusted death rate for alcohol-induced causes in 2016 was 2.7 times the rate for females. The rate for alcohol-induced causes increased 3.7% for males and 4.0% for females in 2016 from 2015. The age-adjusted death rate for non-Hispanic white males was 32.1% higher than for non-Hispanic black males and 16.3% lower than for Hispanic males. The rate for non-Hispanic white females was 66.7% higher than for non-Hispanic black females and 62.2% higher than for Hispanic females.

"Among the major race–ethnicity–sex groups, the age- adjusted rate for alcohol-induced death increased significantly in 2016 from 2015 for non-Hispanic white males (4.3%) and non-Hispanic white females (7.1%). The rates for non-Hispanic black males, non-Hispanic black females, Hispanic males, and Hispanic females did not change significantly."

Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Kochanek KD, Bastian B, Arias E. Deaths: Final data for 2016. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 67 no 5. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/produ...
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/...

10. Prevalence and Per Capita Consumption of Alcohol Use Worldwide

"• Worldwide in 2016, more than half (57%, or 3.1 billion people) of the global population aged 15 years and over had abstained from drinking alcohol in the previous 12 months. Some 2.3 billion people are current drinkers. Alcohol is consumed by more than half of the population in only three WHO regions – the Americas, Europe and Western Pacific.

"• In the African, Americas, Eastern Mediterranean and European regions, the percentage of drinkers has declined since 2000. However, it increased in the Western Pacific Region from 51.5% in 2000 to 53.8% today and has remained stable in the South-East Asia Region.

"• Total alcohol per capita consumption in the world’s population over 15 years of age rose from 5.5 litres of pure alcohol in 2005 to 6.4 litres in 2010 and was still at the level of 6.4 litres in 2016. The highest levels of per capita alcohol consumption are observed in countries of the WHO European Region.

"• Whereas in the WHO African Region, the Region of the Americas and the Eastern Mediterranean Region alcohol per capita consumption remained rather stable, in the European Region it decreased from 12.3 litres in 2005 to 9.8 litres in 2016. The increase in per capita alcohol consumption is observed in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.

"• Current drinkers consume on average 32.8 grams of pure alcohol per day, and this is some 20% higher (40.0 g/day) in the African Region and about 20% lower (26.3 g/day in the South-East Asia Region. Drinkers increased their alcohol consumption since 2000 in almost all regions except the WHO European Region.

"• One quarter (25.5%) of all alcohol consumed worldwide is in the form of unrecorded alcohol – i.e. alcohol that is not accounted for in official statistics on alcohol taxation or sales as it is usually produced, distributed and sold outside the formal channels under governmental control."

Global status report on alcohol and health 2018. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
http://www.who.int/substance_a...

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