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Percentage of Drinkers: In 2012, 87.6 percent of people aged 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 71 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 56.3 percent reported that they drank in the past month.1

Percentage of Binge Drinkers and Heavy Drinkers: In 2012, 24.6 percent of people aged 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month (drinking 5 or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days); 7.1 percent reported that they engaged in heavy drinking in the past month (drinking 5 or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days).2

Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs): An estimated 17 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder (AUD)—a medical term that includes both alcoholism and harmful drinking that does not reach the level of dependence.3, 4  (Please note: 17 million is an average of the 16 to 18 million cases reported in multiple sources.)

Untreated AUDs: Research shows that an estimated 15 percent of individuals with an AUD ever receive treatment.5, 6  (Please note: this estimate is based on figures reported in multiple sources.)

Deaths: Each year in the United States, nearly 85,000 people die from alcohol-related causes, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in our country.7

Economic Burden: In 2006, alcohol problems cost the United States $224 billion each year, primarily from lost productivity but also from health care and property damage costs.8   These issues affect all Americans, whether they drink or not.

Global burden: Globally, alcohol use is the fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability; among people between the ages of 15 to 49, it is the first.9

Family consequences: More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with an alcohol problem, according to a 2012 study.10

Alcohol and College Students: Researchers estimate that each year:

  • 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.11
  • 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.11
  • 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.11

Alcohol and Adolescents:

  • By age 15, more than 50 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.12
  • More adolescents drink alcohol than smoke cigarettes or use marijuana.13
  • In 2012, about 9.3 million persons aged 12-20 reported drinking alcohol in the past month.14

Alcohol and Pregnancy:

  • Among more than half a million pregnant women surveyed between 1991 and 2005, about 12 percent reported drinking and about 2 percent reported binge drinking.15
  • The prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the United States is estimated to be between 2 to 7 cases per 1,000; the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in populations of younger school children may be as high as 2 to 5 percent in the United States and some Western European countries.16

Alcohol and the Human Body:

  • In 2009, liver cirrhosis was the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, with a total of 31,522 deaths—664 more than in 2008.17
  • Among all cirrhosis deaths in 2009, 48.2 percent were alcohol related. The proportion of alcohol-related cirrhosis was highest (70.6 percent) among those who died between the ages of 35 and 44.17
  • In 2009, alcohol related liver disease was the primary cause of nearly 1 in 3 liver transplants in the United States.18

Please note:  Any statistics related to the prevalence of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are based on definitions in the DSM-IV.   These figures with will be updated with new statistics based on DSM-V criteria as soon as they become available.


1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

2 SAMHSA. NSDUH: (Please note: NIAAA defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This usually occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men — in about 2 hours.)


4 Grant, B.F.; Stinson, F.S.; Dawson, D.A.; et al. Prevalence and co-occurrence of substance use disorders and independent mood and anxiety disorders: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Archives of General Psychiatry 61(8):807–816, 2004. PMID:15289279

5 Huebner, R.B., and Kantor, L.W. Advances in alcoholism treatment. Alcohol Research & Health 33(4):295–299, 2011. PMCID:PMC3860532

6 Dawson, D.A.; Grant, B.F.; Stinson, F.S.; and Chou, P.S. Estimating the effect of help-seeking on achieving recovery from alcohol dependence. Addiction 101(6):824–834, 2006. PMID:16696626

7 Mokdad, A.H.; Marks, J.S.; Stroup, D.F.; and Gerberding, J.L. Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 291(10):1238–1245, 2004. PMID:15010446

8 Bouchery, E.E.; Harwood, H.J.; Sacks, J.J.; et al. Economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S., 2006. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 41(5):516–524, 2011. PMID:22011424

9 Lim, S.S.; Vos, T.; Flaxman, A.D.; et al. A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990-2010: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet 380(9859):2224–2260, 2012. PMID:23245609

10 SAMHSA. Data Spotlight: Over 7 Million Children Live with a Parent with Alcohol Problems. 2012. Available at:

11 Hingson, R.W.; Zha, W.; and Weitzman, E.R. Magnitude of and trends in alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18-24, 1998-2005. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs (Suppl. 16):12–20, 2009. PMID:19538908

12 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking: A Guide to Action for Educators. 2007. Available at:

13 Johnston, L.D.; O’Malley, P.M.; Bachman, J.G.; et al. Monitoring the Future, National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975–2005. Volume 1: Secondary School Students. NIH Pub. No. 06–5883. Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2006. Available at:

14 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,  Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-46, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4795. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013.  Available at:

15 CDC. Alcohol use among pregnant and nonpregnant women of childbearing age—United States, 1991-2005. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 58(19):529–532, 2009. PMID:19478721

16 May, P.A.; Gossage, J.P.; Kalberg, W.O.; et al. Prevalence and epidemiologic characteristics of FASD from various research methods with an emphasis on recent in-school studies. Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews 15(3):176–192, 2009. PMID:19731384

17 Yoon, Y.H., and Yi, H.Y. Surveillance Report #93: Liver Cirrhosis Mortality in the United States, 1970–2009. Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2012. Available at:

18 Singal, A.K.; Guturu, P.; and Hmoud, B.; et al. Evolving frequency and outcomes of liver transplantation based on etiology of liver disease. Transplantation 95(5):755–760, 2012. PMID:23370710 (Please note: The “almost 1 in 3” figure aggregates the total number of transplants necessitated by alcoholic cirrhosis, alcoholic liver disease plus hepatitis C virus infection, and 40 percent of transplants necessitated by hepatocellular carcinoma.)


Last updated: May 21, 2014