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Drinking Habits

Alcohol Misuse Statistics in the United States: A Look at the Data

July 31, 2023
11 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 31, 2023
11 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 31, 2023
11 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 31, 2023
11 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 31, 2023
11 min read

It’s 5 p.m. on a Friday at the end of a long week and you’ve just gotten home. You got into an argument with your boss, a client yelled at you, and all you want to do is kick back and relax with a few drinks. It’s been a tough week and you’ve earned that drink, right?

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. It’s a pretty classic story in American culture. More than 85 percent of U.S. adults have had a drink at some point in their lives, 70 percent said they’ve had a drink in the last year, and more than half have had a drink this month. Let’s take a closer look at alcohol misuse statistics in the U.S.

How Many Americans Are Alcoholics?

Interestingly, the U.S. has one of the lowest alcohol use rates per capita of first-world countries, with Belgium, Germany, France, the UK, and Australia ahead of the U.S. However, Americans have higher rates of alcohol abuse than any of those countries. In fact, about 15 million people struggle with alcohol use disorder in the United States. Sadly, fewer than 10 percent of them seek treatment. 

In 2021 alone, more than 10 percent of adults — 28.6 million adults — had alcohol use disorder. This includes 16.3 million men and 12.4 million women ages 18 and older. But it’s not just adults who are suffering. An additional 894,000 people between the ages of 12 and 17 have alcohol use disorders. 

Furthermore, while young adults (18-25) and adults (26 and older) report the highest rate of current alcohol use, the elderly also struggle with alcohol misuse. In fact, 1 in 20 adults aged 65 or older had an alcohol use disorder in the past year

The Most Preventable Cause of Death

Alcohol also continues to be one of the nation’s most preventable causes of death, surpassed only by tobacco and a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. More than 140,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths each year in the U.S. Every day, 385 Americans die as a result of excessive alcohol use; 84 percent of these deaths involve adults aged 35 or older. 

Many of these deaths are related to the long-term effects of alcohol use, such as liver disease, heart disease, and certain cancers. However, a good portion are from short-term effects, such as alcohol poisoning. In fact, over 2,200 people die from alcohol poisoning every year, and these deaths often occur in adults ages 35-64.

Furthermore, alcohol use disorder contributes to more than 200 separate health conditions and alcohol-related injuries. It also costs the U.S. approximately $250 billion annually. 

Statistics about alcohol use disorder in the united states

Drink Statistics and Average Alcohol Consumption

So, what does the average alcohol consumption look like for U.S. drinkers? On average, U.S. drinkers reported consuming about four drinks per week in 2022. However, that number rises to six drinks per week for those who appear to be regular drinkers, defined as those who had at least one drink in the past week.

As for average drinks per week by age, data shows that among adults aged 18 and over, 5.1 percent engaged in heavy drinking (consuming more than 14 alcoholic drinks per week for men and more than 7 drinks for women). However, the number of young adults over- drinking has fallen from an average of 5.2 drinks per week in 2001-2003 to 3.6 drinks in 2021-2023.

Interestingly, when it comes to statistics on non drinkers, about 39 percent of women and 33 percent of men reported completely abstaining from alcohol. When breaking this down by age, 40 percent of those aged 18-29 reported being sober, compared to 30 percent of those aged 30-49, 35 percent for those aged 54-60, and 46 percent for those aged 65 and over. 

U.S. Alcohol Consumption and COVID-19

While the U.S. has long had a problem with alcohol use, research indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic made things significantly worse. For instance, online liquor sales rose 262 percent year-over-year in the first 3 weeks of March 2020, which coincided with the greatest number of state-wide lockdowns. Similarly, in the first year of the pandemic, sales of alcohol increased by 2.9% — the largest annual increase in over 50 years. 

As for alcohol consumption, one survey from Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore, Maryland  noted that 60 percent of participants reported drinking more alcohol after March 1, 2020. Furthermore, data shows that deaths involving alcohol jumped 25.5 percent between 2019 and 2020, totalling nearly 100,00 deaths. 

Interestingly, some researchers have noted that drinking returned to pre-pandemic levels by June 2021. This is largely attributed to an ease in lockdown restrictions and the ability to re-engage in social activities. 

Binge Drinking in the U.S.  

America also has a problem with binge drinking (drinking large amounts of alcohol within a short period of time), which can be incredibly dangerous. Binge drinking is generally defined as consuming 5 or more drinks in one sitting for men, or 4 or more drinks for women. 

Data show that 24 percent of people aged 18 years and older — roughly 59 million U.S. adults — reported binge drinking in the last 30 days. This includes 32 million men and 27 million women. Approximately one in two women of child-bearing age drink, and 18 percent of women in this group binge drink. 

Binge drinking is also a problem among teens. In 2021, 995,000 youth ages 12 to 17 —  or 3.8 percent of this age group —  reported binge drinking in the past month. This includes more girls (594,000) than boys (400,000).

Even the elderly engage in binge drinking. Data shows that approximately 20 percent of adults aged 60-64 and around 11% over age 65 report current binge drinking.

High-Intensity Drinking: An Emerging Trend

It’s also worth noting that the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has identified an emerging trend in the U.S. that it has labeled “high-intensity drinking” (HID): the consumption of alcohol at levels that are two or more times the gender-specific binge drinking thresholds.

Due to its status as an emerging trend, there are a limited number of peer-reviewed studies. However, available data indicate that high-intensity drinking is common among binge drinkers and that it’s typically associated with special occasions, such as holidays, sporting events, and 21st birthdays. In fact, data suggests that high-intensity drinking peaks at age 21. Nearly 13 percent of young adults aged 25-26 reported at least once instance of high-intensity drinking within the past 14 days. 

Furthermore, compared with people who didn’t binge drink, people who drank alcohol at twice the gender-specific binge drinking thresholds were 70 times more likely to have an alcohol-related emergency department visit, while those who consumed alcohol at three times the threshold were 93 times more likely.

The Bottom Line

The data speaks for itself: alcohol misuse is a significant problem in the U.S. Large numbers of men, women, and even the youth struggle with alcohol misuse or are consuming alcohol frequently or at excessive levels. This is particularly concerning, given the well-documented negative effects of alcohol on our physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Thankfully, there are multiple treatment options available and numerous ways for people to get help. Reframe is one option. We’ve helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption or quit drinking altogether. If you’re struggling with alcohol use, you’re not alone. And it’s never too late to get help! 

Quit Drinking With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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