Table of Contents
I. Getting Help
Guide to Alcohol Addiction


I. The Basics

The Definition of Moderate Alcohol Use

Moderate use of alcohol is not generally considered dangerous and may have some health benefits. “Moderate Drinking” is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as no more than one drink per day for women, and no more than two drinks per day for men. A “drink” is defined by the USDA as:

  • 12 fluid ounces of regular beer
  • 5 fluid ounces of wine
  • 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits

Some people in should avoid alcohol altogether:

  • Those who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • Those who have been diagnosed with alcoholism or alcohol abuse
  • Those who have a family history of alcoholism
  • Those who have liver or pancreatic disease
  • Those who have a weak heart or have experienced heart failure
  • Those who take prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol
  • Those who have had a hemorrhagic stroke (when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures)

Key Facts About Alcohol Abuse

While moderate use of alcohol can be beneficial for some, alcohol abuse:

  • Leads to Medical Problems: Chronic alcohol abuse over a period of several years can result in a number of medical problems, especially liver cirrhosis. In 2015, there were over 36,000 deaths from liver disease related to chronic alcohol abuse.
  • Results in Traffic Fatalities: Impaired drivers were involved in 31% of all traffic fatalities in 2014.
  • Is a “Gateway Drug” for Teens: A 2016 study concludes that alcohol use among teens leads them to the consumption of other illegal and potentially dangerous drugs.
  • Costs the U.S. $249 Billion: According to a 2016 study published by the CDC, excessive alcohol usage in the U.S. in 2010 had a total economic impact of $249 billion – that equates to a cost of $807 for every person in the country.

II. Statistics on Alcohol Use

Note: The terms “binge drinking,” “heavy alcohol use,” and “AUD” will be used below. The NIAAA defines binge drinking as about four drinks for women at a time, and five drinks for men. SAMHSA defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking five or more times in the past month. AUD refers to an Alcohol Use Disorder, commonly known as alcoholism. See the section below titled “Defining Alcohol Use Disorder” for more information. </span

Alcohol Use Among Adults

The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that:

  • 70.1% of adults said they drank alcohol in the past year
  • 56.0% reported that they drank in the past month.
  • 26.9% of respondents 18 or older admitted they had engaged in binge drinking in the past month
  • 7% reported they engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month
  • 6% have an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Alcohol Use Among Youth

Data from the 2015 NSDUH suggests that:

  • Close to 5.1 million people (13.4%) aged 12-20 binge drink at least once a month
  • About 1.3 million respondents (3.3%) aged 12–20 admitted to heavy alcohol use in the past month

Alcohol Use Among College Students

The 2015 NSDUH reports that:

  • 20% of college students ages 18-22 meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
  • 38% of college students ages 18-22 reported binge drinking in the last month
  • 12.5% of college students ages 18-22 admitted to heavy alcohol use in the past month

The consequences of alcohol abuse among college students are severe:

  • At least 1,825 college students between 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, notably including motor-vehicle crashes
  • At least 696,000 students between 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking every year
  • At least 97,000 students between 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape every year

Alcohol Use Among Pregnant Women

A 2009 study conducted by the University of New Mexico estimates that the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome ranges from 2 to 7 cases per 1,000 pregnancies, and the rate of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) ranges from 20 to 50 cases per 1,000.