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Alcohol Addiction Statistics and Facts to Know

by | Last updated Sep 13, 2021 at 4:01PM | Published on Jul 29, 2014 | Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Addiction Facts

Alcohol is one of the most commonly misused substances globally, maybe because it’s also the most socially accepted substance out there. In 2018, almost 86 percent of people aged 18 and older said they used alcohol at least once in their lifetime. 

Many don’t realize the realities of alcohol addiction and its consequences on themselves, their family, and family members. However, when people look at real alcohol addiction facts and statistics, they might look at the substance with different eyes. 

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is a chronic disease that can affect anyone. There isn’t a single cause linked to the condition. Instead, experts believe it’s a mix of genetics, sex, race, socioeconomics, and behavioral factors that contribute. 

The reason alcoholism is a disease comes down to its effect on the brain. Our brains work by adapting to our environment, hoping to always function, and executing at its best. 

But, when you consistently drink alcohol, the brain reinterprets it as a new environment and changes to help you function better with alcohol. This is why many recovering alcoholics still struggle with the same problems throughout their lives, even after years of being sober. 

Alcohol Use and Abuse in the United States

Alcohol is, by far, one of the most commonly used substances in the United States. The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates 86% of adults aged 18 and older report drinking alcohol at least once in their lives, with 70% having had alcohol in the past year and 55% having had alcohol in the past month. 

In the United States, there’s a new emerging trend to participate in high-intensity drinking. This practice is very similar to binge drinking; this practice involves drinking alcohol at levels two or more times higher than the binge drinking thresholds. In 2019, about 26% of people ages 18 and older reported engaging in binge drinking in the past month. 

Compared to people who binge drink, those who engage in high-intensity drinking are 93% more likely to have an alcohol-related emergency department visit. 

Alcohol Addiction Statistics by Demographic

Age

Underage Drinking in the United States

It’s essential to take a look at underage drinking in the U.S., especially considering about 40% of 12- to 20-year-olds report that they have had at least one drink in their lives. From that group, about 19% reported drinking within the past month, according to the 2019 NSDUH. 

Thankfully, the study has seen a decline in underage drinking. From 2002 to 2019, the prevalence of alcohol use within the past month decreased by 52.3% for people aged 17 and younger. 

Drinking Among Young Adults

Alcohol is one of the most common causes of death for people ages 18 to 22 in the United States. About 47% of young adults reported drinking in the past month, according to the 2019 NSDUH. Of those, 30% reported binge drinking, and 7% reported heavy alcohol use in general. The study believes at least 8% of young adults met the criteria for past-year alcohol use disorder in 2019. 

Drinking Among Adults

As people finish college and move into the workforce, alcohol becomes an even more common substance to use and abuse. Approximately 55% of adults aged 26 and older use alcohol. Of those, 24.5% reported binge drinking in the past month, and almost 6% reported heavy alcohol use. 

Seniors are also participating in unhealthy drinking habits. Almost 65% of seniors reported high-risk drinking, where they exceeded daily guidelines at least once a week. Over 10% of senior adults engage in binge drinking. Estimates say that this age group doubled in alcohol use disorder cases between the years 2001 and 2013. 

Race and Ethnicity

Alcohol use disorder crosses all races, ethnicities, and social classes. Nonetheless, according to statistics, it’s clear some ethnic groups are more affected by alcohol than others:

  • Caucasian Americans consume on average 10% more alcohol than African Americans.
  • Over 20% of Hispanic Americans participate in binge drinking.
  • Asian-Americans are the least likely to drink and engage in heavy drinking of all ethnic groups.
  • African-Americans are more likely to experience health issues associated with alcohol use.
  • Native Americans are five times more likely to deal with fetal alcohol syndrome than Caucasians. 

While these numbers aren’t exact, the following statistics represent current, regular alcohol use among different racial groups:

  • 8% of White Americans
  • 7% of Black or African Americans
  • 3% of American Indian
  • 8% of Asian Americans
  • 5% of Hispanic or Latino Americans 

Gender

Physical differences between men and women impact how the body metabolizes alcohol. This is why the CDC and other organizations have different drink recommendations and thresholds for men and women. Some gender-related alcohol use statistics include:

  • Men are more likely to engage in excessive alcohol use than women. 
  • Men have a higher rate of alcohol-related hospitalizations than women. 
  • Males are two times more likely to engage in binge drinking than women. 
  • Men are more likely to commit suicide than women after drinking alcohol.
  • Women have higher blood alcohol levels than men, even after consuming the same amount of alcohol.
  • Women are more likely to face long-term health care issues from drinking. 
  • Nearly 10% of pregnant women drink alcohol, and 4.5% engage in binge drinking. 

LGBTQ+ Community

It’s common for members of the LGBTQ+ community to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Many individuals turn to substances as a coping mechanism for the many challenges they face in today’s society. LGBTQ+ alcohol addiction statistics to know include:

  • Alcohol use impacts more people of the LGBTQ+ community than the average population. 
  • 60.2% of LGBTQ+ Americans report current alcohol use.
  • Over 12% of young adults that self-identify as LGBTQ+ members struggled with alcohol use disorders in 2019, compared to 7.2% of all adults. 

Firefighters and Veterans

Alcohol abuse is prevalent among veterans, firefighters, and healthcare workers. The last report for veterans is the 2017 NSDUH. In it, 56.6% of veterans reported using alcohol, and 7.5% reported being heavy users. Furthermore, close to 65% of veterans who enter a substance abuse treatment program note alcohol as their primary substance of abuse. 

Firefighters reported drinking alcohol about ten days per month; that’s nearly half of their off-duty days. First responders tend to turn to substances like alcohol to cope with the trauma they’re exposed to in their day jobs. Almost 9% of firefighters report driving while intoxicated, while 50% of them reported either engaging in heavy drinking or binge drinking in the past month alone. 

Alcohol-Related Death Statistics

Unfortunately, alcohol-related injuries and accidents are responsible for thousands of fatalities in the United States every year. Alcohol is considered the third leading preventable cause of death in the US. 

Recent estimates by the CDC attribute over 95,000 deaths per year to alcohol. That’s 261 deaths per day. Besides accident-related deaths, many of these deaths are due to the long-term effects of alcohol abuse, such as liver disease, heart disease, and cancer. 

Here’s a summary of alcohol-related emergency visits and deaths in the United States:

  • Between 2006 and 2014, alcohol-related ED visits increased by 47%.
  • In 2019, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 28% of driving fatalities.
  • Close to 2,200 individuals die from alcohol poisoning each year. 

Beyond these short-term dangers and risks, some people only struggle with alcohol-related health issues or illnesses. Heavy drinkers are very likely to deal with myriad health concerns when compared to the average population. Some of these include:

  • Liver disease (2.12 times more likely)
  • Cirrhosis (2.26 times more likely)
  • High blood pressure (2.06 times more likely)
  • Cardiovascular disease (2.26 times more likely)
  • Nerve damage (2.77 times more likely)
  • Pancreatitis (2.18 times more likely)

They are also at higher risk of other health problems. Heavy drinkers are more likely to deal with:

  • Depression (85% more likely)
  • Weak immune system (61% more likely)
  • Seizures (73% more likely)
  • Cancer (48% more likely)

Statistics About Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Recovery

Treatment for alcohol use disorder in the United States continues to be significantly low. People with alcohol addiction are more likely to seek medical care for an alcohol-related problem rather than for their alcohol use problem. 

Of the nearly 22 million Americans aged 12 or older who needed substance use treatment in the past year, 12.2% received treatment at a specialty facility. Of those, 7% were males, and 8% were females. 

Nonetheless, people are trying to get help somehow. When you break it down by treatment setting, statistics say that:

  • 2.1 million received treatment at a self-help group (like AA).
  • 1.7 million received treatment at an outpatient rehab facility.
  • 1.3 million received treatment at an outpatient mental health center.
  • 1 million received treatment at an inpatient rehab center.
  • 948,000 received treatment through a doctor’s office.
  • 642,000 received treatment at a hospital setting or partial hospitalization program.
  • 514,000 received treatment at an emergency room.
  • 245,000 received treatment at a prison or jail 

Less than 4% of people with an alcohol use disorder have been prescribed medication to treat their disorder through a medication-assisted treatment program. 

Of those not getting treatment, almost 40% reported not being ready to stop consuming alcohol, 24% didn’t know where to go for treatment, and 21% had no insurance coverage or couldn’t afford treatment. 

Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery Statistics

Although addiction treatment is highly personal and individualized, many rehab centers and organizations have noticed patterns that could serve as guidelines for treatment and recovery. 

Detox & Withdrawal

  • 78% of people try to detox from alcohol at home
  • 28% eventually choose to detox at a rehab facility
  • 95% of people detoxifying for alcohol experience withdrawal symptoms for 2-8 days
  • 49% of people in alcohol detox struggle with stress or anxiety
  • Heavy alcohol users are twice as likely to experience hallucinations during the detox
  • 90% of heavy drinkers are likely to experience delirium tremens

Treatment Program Choices

  • 35% start rehab in an inpatient or residential setting
  • 24% started rehab in intensive outpatient treatment
  • 26% started rehab in outpatient care

Length of Stay

  • 55% spent less than 30 days in rehab
  • 27% spent between 31-60 days in rehab
  • 11% spent between 61-90 days in rehab
  • 7% spent more than 90 days in rehab

Most addiction specialists and organizations recommend at least 90-days rehab programs for sustained, long-lasting recovery. 

Relapse Rates

  • 29% reported not relapsing at all. 
  • 32.3% reported relapsing back to alcohol within the first year after leaving treatment. 
  • 21% reported relapsing in their second year in recovery. 

To maintain sobriety and prevent relapse, 49% used to exercise, 37% avoided triggering activities and people, and 35% used an aftercare recovery program. 

Finding Help for Alcohol Addiction

As you can see, alcohol dependence affects thousands of people every year in the United States. Lighthouse Recovery Institute counts with a specialist team of medical professionals and clinical counselors to help you or someone you know overcome alcohol use disorder. 

We specialize in dual diagnosis treatment programs and comprehensive addiction recovery programs that adapt to your needs. Call us today at 866-308-2090 to learn more about alcohol and drug addiction treatment at our South Florida facility.

  • Alcohol use disorder: a chronic brain condition characterized by compulsive drinking, loss of control over alcohol use, and withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.
  • Binge drinking: a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration levels to 0.08 or higher within two hours. For women, this is about 4 drinks, and for men, it is 5.
  • Heavy drinking: NIAAA defines heavy drinking as 4 or more drinks for men and 3 or more drinks per day for women.
  • High-intensity drinking: a pattern of drinking that involved drinking one to two times the standard binge drinking threshold. For men, it would be 10 standard drinks and for women 8.
  • Underage drinking: in the United States, anyone under the age of 21 engages in underage drinking.
  1. SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Table 2.17B – Alcohol Use in Lifetime among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by Age Group and Demographic Characteristics: Percentages, 2018 and 2019. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/release/2019-national-survey-drug-use-and-health-nsduh-releases.
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). Alcohol Facts and Statistics.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Deaths from Excessive Alcohol Use in the U.S.
  4. National Institutes of Health. (2020). Alcohol-related deaths increasing in the United States.
  5. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP20-07-01-001, NSDUH Series H-55).
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Substance Use in Women Research Report: Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use.
  7. Chartier, Karen; Caetano, Raul. “Ethnicity and Health Disparities in Alcohol Research.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Excessive Alcohol Use is a Risk to Men’s Health.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Substance Use and Military Life DrugFacts: General Risk of Substance Use Disorders.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Deaths from Excessive Alcohol Use in the U.S.” January 14, 2021.
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol Poisoning Deaths.” January 2015.
Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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