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 86.3% reported they had consumed alcohol at some point during their lives; 70% said they had a drink within the past 12 months and 55.3% said they drank alcohol within the past 30 days.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Prevalence of Binge Drinking and Heavy Drinking

An approximate 26.45% of all adults in the U.S. reported engaging in binge drinking in the past 30 days and 6.6% 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 5.8% of adults over 18—about 14.4 million people—had an alcohol use disorder. This included 9.2 million men and 5.3 million women, or 7.6% of all adult men and 4.1% of all adult women.

Of the people with a drinking problem, only 6.7% 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% of men and 5.4% 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 401,000 had alcohol use disorders, including 227,000 females and 173,000 males. Among U.S. adolescents, 1.6% had already developed an alcohol use disorder. During the previous 12 months, only 5% of those with a drinking problem received treatment.

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

According to the CDC, about 30% of high schoolers reported drinking some amount of alcohol and 14% engaged in binge drinking.

Among those from age 12 to age 20, 19% drank in the previous 30 days with 12% binge drinking. 

Prevalence of Alcohol Use Among College Students

Among U.S. college students, 54.9% of full-time students ages 18 to 22 reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 44.6% of others the same age. An estimated 36.9% of college students reported binge drinking in the past month and 9.6% admitted to heavy drinking. All of these percentages are significantly higher for the same age group among non-college students.

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Article Sources
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  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Facts and Statistics. February 2020.

  2. Esser MB, Hedden SL, Kanny D, Brewer RD, Gfroerer JC, Naimi TS. Prevalence of alcohol dependence among US adult drinkers, 2009-2011. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014;11:E206. doi:10.5888/pcd11.140329

  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Underage Drinking. Updated January 3, 2020.