Prevalence of Alcoholism in the United States

Adults and Adolescents With Alcohol Abuse Disorders

Drunk Woman
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It really is not possible to determine the number of alcoholics in the United States because there really is no official diagnosis of "alcoholism" in the first place.

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.

Therefore, there are no real statistics available estimating the prevalence of alcoholism in the U.S.

What we do have, outlined below, are statistics and facts from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism gleaned from the latest (2013) National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and other sources about the prevalence of alcohol use, alcohol use disorders, underage drinking and alcohol-related conditions and fatalities.

Alcohol Use in the United States

Among people 18 years or older, an estimated 86.8% reported they had consumed alcohol at some point during their lives; 70.7% said they had a drink within the past 12 months and 56.4% said they drank alcohol within the past 30 days.

Prevalence of Binge Drinking and Heavy Drinking

An approximate 24.6% of all adults in the U.S. reported engaging in binge drinking in the past 30 days and 6.8% admitted to heavy drinking in the past month.

For the NSDUH survey, binge drinking was defined as 5 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 in the U.S.

An estimated 7.0% of adults over 18 - about 16.6 million people - had an alcohol use disorder.

This included 10.8 million men and 5.8 million women, or 9.4% of all adult men and 4.7% of women.

Of the 16.6 with a drinking problem, only 1.3 million received professional treatment for their alcohol use disorder in the past year. In other words, only 7.8% of those who needed help sought help from a facility specializing in alcohol treatment and rehabilitation.

Breaking it down further, only 8.0% of men and 7.3% 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 697,000 had alcohol use disorders, including 385,000 females and 311,000 males. Among U.S. adolescents, 2.8% had already developed an alcohol use disorder. During the previous 12 months, only 73,000 of those with a drinking problem received treatment in a rehab facility.

Alcohol-Related Deaths

Each year, an estimate 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 2013, there were 10,076 deaths attributed to alcohol-impaired driving.

Prevalence of Underage Alcohol Use

Among 15-year-old Americans, 35.1% reported having had at least one drink amd about 22.7% report drinking within the past 30 days. That included 23% of males and 22.5% of females.

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

Prevalence of Alcohol Use Among College Students

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

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Fact Sheets - Alcohol Use and Your Health." Alcohol & Public Health November 2014

Esser MB, et al. "Prevalence of Alcohol Dependence Among US Adult Drinkers, 2009–2011." Prventing Chronic Disease November 2014

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Alcohol Facts and Statistics." Alcohol & Your Health March 2015

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