• Percentage of Drinkers: In 2012, 87.6% of people aged 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 71% reported that they drank in the past year; 56.3% reported that they drank in the past month.1
  • Percentage of Binge Drinkers and Heavy Drinkers: In 2012, 24.6 % 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% 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: 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 – 18 million reported in multiple sources.)
  • Untreated AUDs: Research shows that an estimated 15% of individuals with an AUD ever seek treatment.5,  6  (Please note: this estimate is based on figures reported in multiple sources.)
  • Deaths: Each year in the U.S., nearly 80,000 people die from alcohol-related causes,7  making it the third leading preventable cause of death in our country.8
  • Economic Burden: In 2006, alcohol problems cost the U.S. $224 billion each year, primarily from lost productivity but also from health care and property damage costs.9    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.10
  • Family consequences: More than 10% of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study.11
  • 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.12
    • 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.13
    • 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.14
  • Alcohol and Adolescents:
    • By age 15, more than 50 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.15
    • More adolescents drink alcohol than smoke cigarettes or use marijuana.16
    • In 2009, 10.4 million young people ages 12 to 20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month.17
  • Alcohol and Pregnancy:
    • Among more than half a million pregnant women surveyed between 1991 and 2005, about 12% reported drinking and about 2% reported binge drinking.18,19
    • The prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the U.S. is 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 2-5% in the U.S. and some Western European countries.20
  • 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 2008.21
    • Among all cirrhosis deaths in 2009, 48.2 percent were alcohol related. The proportion of alcohol-related cirrhosis was highest (70.6 percent) among decedents aged 35 to 44.22
    • In 2009, alcohol related liver disease was the primary cause of almost 1 in 3 liver transplants in the U.S.  23

Please note:  Any statistics related to the prevalence of alcohol use disorders are based on definitions in the DSM-IV.   We will replace these figures 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): www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2012SummNatFindDetTables/DetTabs/NSDUH-DetTabsSect2peTabs43to84-2012.htm#Tab2.71B.   [Back]
2. SAMHSA. NSDUH: www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2012SummNatFindDetTables/DetTabs/NSDUH-DetTabsSect2peTabs43to84-2012.htm#Tab2.46B. 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.   [Back]
3. SAMHSA. NSDUH: www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2012SummNatFindDetTables/DetTabs/NSDUH-DetTabsSect5peTabs1to56-2012.htm#Tab5.8A.   [Back]
4. Grant 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.  Arch Gen Psychiatry, 61: 807-816, 2004.   [Back]
5. Huebner, RB, and Kantor, LW. Advances in Alcoholism Treatment. Alcohol Res Health, 33(4):295-299, 2011.   [Back]
6. Dawson et al. Estimating the effect of help-seeking on achieving recovery from alcohol dependence. Addiction, 101 (6): 824-834, 2006.   [Back]
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alcohol-attributable deaths and years of potential life lost—United States, 2001. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2004; 53(37);866-870.   [Back]
8. Mokdad et al. Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000. JAMA, 291:1238–1245, 2004.   [Back]
9. Bouchery et al. Economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S., 2006. Am J Prev Med, 41: 516-524, 2011.   [Back]
10. Lim 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):2224-60, 2012. Erratum in Lancet. 2013 Apr 13;381(9874):1276.   [Back]
11. SAMHSA. Data Spotlight: Over 7 Million Children Live with a Parent with Alcohol Problems. 2012.   [Back]
12. Hingson et al. 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, July (Suppl 16): 12-20, 2009.   [Back]
13. Ibid.   [Back]
14. Ibid.   [Back]
15. 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.   [Back]
16. Johnston et al. Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2005: Volume I, Secondary school students (NIH Publication No. 06–5883.). Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2006.   [Back]
17. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume I. Summary of National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-38A, HHS Publication No. SMA 10-4586Findings). 2010.   [Back]
18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alcohol use among pregnant and nonpregnant women of childbearing age—United States, 1991-2005.  MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009 May 22;58(19):529-32.   [Back]
19. Tsai et al. Tracking binge drinking among U.S. childbearing-aged women. Prev Med. 2007;44:298-302.   [Back]
20. May et al. Prevalence and epidemiologic characteristics of FASD from various research methods with an emphasis on recent in-school studies. Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2009;15(3):176-92.   [Back]
21. Surveillance Report #93. Liver cirrhosis mortality in the United States, 1970–2009.  Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2012.   [Back]
22. Ibid.   [Back]
23. Singal et al. Evolving frequency and outcomes of liver transplantation based on etiology of liver disease. Transplantation.  2013 Mar 15;95(5):755-60. 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% of transplants necessitated by hepatocellular carcinoma.   [Back]


Last updated February 2014