Prevalence of Alcoholism in the United States

Drunk Woman

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How many Americans have an alcohol abuse disorder? Statistics can be gleaned from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and other sources about the prevalence of alcohol use, alcohol use disorders, underage drinking, alcohol-related conditions, and fatalities.

It is not possible to determine the number of alcoholics in the United States because there is no official diagnosis of "alcoholism." Since the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in May 2013, drinking problems have been diagnosed as alcohol abuse disorders, ranging in level from mild to moderate to severe. Even before then, in the DSM-IV, published in 1994, alcohol use disorders were broken down into two categories: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.

Alcohol Use

Among people 18 years or older, an estimated 86.4 percent reported they had consumed alcohol at some point during their lives; 70.1 percent said they had a drink within the past 12 months and 56.0 percent said they drank alcohol within the past 30 days.

Prevalence of Binge Drinking and Heavy Drinking

An approximate 26.9 percent of all adults in the U.S. reported engaging in binge drinking in the past 30 days and 7.0 percent admitted to heavy drinking in the past month. For the NSDUH survey, binge drinking was defined as five or more drinking on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days. Heavy drinking was defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on five or more days in the past 30 days.

Alcohol Use Disorders

An estimated 6.2 percent of adults over 18—about 15.1 million people—had an alcohol use disorder. This included 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women, or 8.4 percent of all adult men and 4.2 percent of all adult women.

Of the people with a drinking problem, only 6.7 percent received professional treatment for their alcohol use disorder in the past year from a facility specializing in alcohol treatment and rehabilitation.

Breaking it down further, only 7.4 percent of men and 5.4 percent of women who needed help for an alcohol problem actually sought help for that problem.

The prevalence of heavy drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol use disorders are highest among men aged 18 to 24, and men who are unemployed.

Several studies have found that binge drinking was most common among non-Hispanics whites, those with some college education, and those with an annual family income $75,000 or more. In contrast, alcohol use disorders were most common among American Indians or Alaskan Natives, those having less than a high school education, and those with an annual family income of less than $25,000.

Alcohol Use Disorders Among Youth

Among youth ages 12 to 17, an estimated 623,000 had alcohol use disorders, including 325,000 females and 298,000 males. Among U.S. adolescents, 2.5 percent had already developed an alcohol use disorder. During the previous 12 months, only 5.2 percent of those with a drinking problem received treatment in a rehab facility.

Alcohol-Related Deaths

Each year, an estimated 88,000 people—62,000 men and 26,000 women—die from alcohol-related causes. This makes alcohol abuse the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. In 2014, there were 9,967 deaths attributed to alcohol-impaired driving.

Prevalence of Underage Alcohol Use

A CDC report from 2014 said that, among 15-year-old Americans, 35.1 percent reported having had at least one drink and about 22.7 percent reported drinking within the past 30 days. That included 23 percent of males and 22.5 percent of females.

Among those from age 12 to age 20, 14.2 percent—about 5.4 million—reported binge drinking. That includes 15.8 percent of males and 12.4 percent of females. Approximately 3.7 percent of this age group—about 1.4 million—reported heavy drinking, including 4.6 percent of males and 2.7 percent of females.

Prevalence of Alcohol Use Among College Students

Among U.S. college students, 58.4 percent of full-time students ages 18 to 22 reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 50.6 percent of others the same age. An estimated 39 percent of college students reported binge drinking in the past month and 12.7 percent admitted to heavy drinking. All of these percentages are significantly higher for the same age group among non-college students.

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