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Alcohol Abuse Statistics in 2024

Alcohol abuse is widespread in the United States in 2024. Millions of adults binge drink, develop liver disease, or get into car accidents caused by drinking. Far too many young adults drink too, and many of them develop alcohol habits that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. There are signs of hope. Medications can help people to overcome their triggers and cravings, and treatment works. However, many people who need treatment don’t get it.

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There are signs of hope. Medications can help people to overcome their triggers and cravings, and treatment works. However, many people who need treatment don’t get it.

Key Facts

  • According to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 221.3 million people 12 and older report having consumed alcohol at some point in their lives.[1]
  • More than 61 million people reported binge drinking in the past year, with over 16 million people reporting heavy alcohol use in the past month.[1]

Such forms of alcohol abuse raise the risk of health, personal, familial, and economic hardship, not to mention the risk of developing alcohol use disorder, or alcohol addiction.

Alcohol Use Disorder Rates

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Millions of Americans struggle with some degree of alcohol use disorder (AUD), which exists on a range from mild to severe and includes binge drinking. Here are some stats related to alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction:[16]

  • More than 29 million people 12 and older had AUD 2022 (10.5% of adults).
  • More than 750,000 adolescents had AUD in 2022 (2.9% of adolescents).

The initial onset of drinking at an early age greatly increases the risk of developing AUD later in life. Adults who first started drinking before they were 15 years old have a significantly increased risk of developing AUD as adults (more than three times higher) than those who waited until they were 21 years old to start drinking. [2]

Health Risks of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse poses the risk of significant adverse health effects. Many vital organs in the body are impacted by alcohol. [3]

People who abuse alcohol are at increased risk of many diseases, including: [3]

  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Stroke
  • Stomach bleeding
  • Cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, pharynx, liver, colon, and rectum

An increase in risky sexual behaviors, which exposes individuals to a range of health concerns, is also associated with alcohol abuse. [3]

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says 46.1% of deaths related to liver disease involved alcohol. In males, 48.7% of liver disease deaths involved alcohol, with 41.8% of liver disease deaths in women involving alcohol.[3]

Studies have also found an association between alcohol use and increased risk of physical injury due to violence, falling, car crashes, and drowning.

Deaths Related to Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is involved in many fatal accidents. Since 2020, fatal car accidents involving alcohol have increased. Here are some stats:[4]

  • From 2020 to 2021, fatalities involving alcohol-impaired drivers increased by 14%. 
  • In 2021, 31% of driving fatalities were caused by alcohol-impaired drivers. 

Alcohol abuse is also associated with causing many fatal diseases. Chronic conditions attributed to alcohol abuse include liver disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and AUD. 

Of people who die by suicide, approximately one in four people have AUD and approximately 21% of people who die by suicide have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1% or higher. [5]

Of people who die by suicide, approximately 25% of people have alcohol use disorder.

Binge Drinking Statistics

Binge drinking is a particularly risky form of alcohol abuse, as it can raise the blood alcohol content to dangerously high levels. People who binge drink, defined as five or more drinks at once for men and four or more drinks at one time for women, are not necessarily dependent on alcohol, though they are still abusing it. [6]

Binge drinking increases the risk of disease, serious injury, and AUD. One in six adults in the U.S. report binge drinking. Of those adults, a quarter binge drink weekly.[6] Of adults who drink excessively, over 90% report binge drinking. Binge drinking can cause alcohol poisoning, which results in an estimated 2,300 deaths per year. [6]

Rates of Alcohol Abuse Among Young Adults

According to the 2022 NSDUH, more than half (50.2%) of young adults ages 18 to 25 reported drinking alcohol in the past month.[9] More stats about young adults include: [9]

  • Over 29% percent of the same age group reported binge drinking in the past month.
  • 7.6% of individuals who are 18 to 25 years old reported past-month heavy alcohol use.
  • Over 1,500 college students and over 2,500 people ages 18 to 24 die each year due to alcohol abuse and related accidental injuries. 

Males in this age range were more likely to drink heavily, at 8.6%, while females were at 6.5%. Of the 2.6 million young adults who reported heavy alcohol use, 1.8 million were white, 162,000 were Black, 49,000 were Asian, and 520,000 were Hispanic or Latino.[9]

According to the 2022 NSDUH, more than half (50.2%) of young adults ages 18 to 25 reported drinking alcohol in the past month.

Underage Drinking Stats 

According to the most recent data collected by the NSDUH, over 13 million, or 34.2% of, adolescents and young adults ages 12 to 20 have tried alcohol at least once.[10] Other underage drinking stats include the following:[10]

      15.1% of this age group reported binge drinking in the past month.

      8.2% of young people ages 12 to 20 reported binge drinking.

      1.7% reported heavy alcohol use in the past month.

About 1.9% of males in this age range reported heavy alcohol use in the past month compared to 1.4% of females. Regarding 12 to 20 year olds who reported binge drinking, 10% were white, 7.2% were Hispanic or Latino, 4.6% were Black, and 3.2% were Asian.[10]

Alcohol Abuse & Pregnancy 

The rate of alcohol use during pregnancy has increased in recent years. From 2011 to 2018, current drinking, defined as at least one drink in the past 30 days, among pregnant women increased from 9.2% to 11.3%. [11]

Pregnant people with frequent mental health problems and those without a regular healthcare provider were most likely to use alcohol while pregnant. As of 2020, approximately one in seven pregnant people reported drinking alcohol, with approximately one in 20 reporting binge drinking. [11]Drinking during pregnancy exposes babies to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which can cause physical and developmental disabilities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in 1,000 babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), the most involved type of FASD. Children with FAS can experience significant disabilities, with the total cost of care over the lifetime estimated at $2 million. [11]

Top States for Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is a widespread problem across the country, though some states are more heavily impacted than others. Almost 17% of U.S. adults report binge drinking, and 7% report drinking heavily. Except for a few states, the Midwest tends to see the highest rates of alcohol abuse. [12]

According to the most recent data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, states with the highest rates of binge drinking among adults ages 18 and older, include:[12]

  • Wisconsin (23.5%)
  • Montana (22.9%)
  • Iowa (21.8%)
  • North Dakota (21.7%)
  • South Dakota (21.1%)
  • Nebraska (20.8%)
  • District of Columbia (20.7%)
  • Colorado (19.5%)
  • Vermont (19.2%)
  • Minnesota (19.3%)
  • Kansas and Rhode Island (18.9%)
  • Ohio (18.5%)
  • Louisiana (18.3%)
  • Missouri (18.1%)
  • Maine (17.8%)

The states with the highest rates of binge drinking among adults include Wisconsin, Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

The Economic Impact of Alcohol

In 2022, researchers examined how much an increase in drinking would lead to economic declines and a loss of life.

They determined that a one-year increase in alcohol consumption—such as we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic—would lead to the following issues:[17]

  • Loss of 332,000 quality-adjusted life years
  • 295,000 additional alcohol-related hospitalizations
  • $5.4 billion in added hospitalization costs

The costs weren’t evenly distributed. People ages 51+, women, and non-Hispanic Black people had higher consequences.

Alcohol Abuse Treatment Statistics

Evidence-based treatments are available to help individuals recover from alcohol abuse. Treatment should be customized to the needs of each individual in treatment, so the intensity of care will vary greatly depending on the severity of the person’s alcohol abuse. 

There are currently three medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help people quit drinking and avoid relapse. A combination of medication, behavioral therapy, and participation in support groups is considered the most effective treatment approach, explains NIAAA.

Studies show that:[13],[14]

  • Fewer than 10% of people with AUD seek treatment services.
  • Men are more likely to seek help for an AUD than women.
  • White people are more likely to utilize addiction treatment services than Black or Hispanic people. 

Alcohol abuse is a growing public health concern throughout the country. It is the third cause of preventable death in the U.S., and it costs the country an estimated $250 billion per year. 

Of individuals who enter treatment for a substance use disorder, 40% to 60% are likely to relapse at some point. However, relapse is not a failure. It can provide valuable information to guide future treatment planning. [15]

Recovery is a complex process, and care must be frequently updated to meet the individual’s evolving needs. The more accessible and effective treatment becomes, the more people will benefit from services that start them on their path to recovery.

Updated March 16, 2024
Resources
  1. Alcohol Use in the United States: Age Groups and Demographics. (2023). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  2. Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder. (April 2023). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  3. Alcohol and the Human Body. (2023). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  4. Overview of Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes in 2021. (April 2023). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  5. Alcohol-Related Emergencies and Deaths in the United States. (2023). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  6. Binge Drinking. (November 2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  7. Alcohol-Related Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic. (May 2022). Journal of the American Medical Association.
  8. Deaths Involving Alcohol Increased During the COVID-19 Pandemic. (June 2022). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  9. Alcohol and Young Adults. (2023). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  10. Underage Drinking in the United States (Ages 12 to 20). (2023). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  11. Data and Statistics on FASDs. (January 2023). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  12. Data on Excessive Drinking. (November 2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  13. Recent Developments in Alcohol Services Research on Access to Care Alcohol research : current reviews, 38(1), 27–33.
  14. Epidemiology of Recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder. (November 2020). Alcohol Research.
  15. Treatment and Recovery. (July 2020). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  16. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the United States. (2023). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  17. Study Models Health and Economic Impacts of Increased Alcohol Consumption During COVID-19 Pandemic. (August 2022). RTI International.
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