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Alcohol abuse statistics in the United States

Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on December 4, 2023

Alcohol is a staple at just about any social gathering you can think of. But how big of a problem is the affinity for alcohol in the United States? 

Gallup News reports that more than 6 in 10 American adults drink regularly, while nearly 15 million adults meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Table of Contents

Excessive alcohol use is the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Let’s take a look at the latest data on alcohol abuse in the U.S. and discover a sobering truth. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, Ardu Recovery Center employs caring staff and offers a customized recovery plan that includes family involvement. Contact us today to learn more about our alcohol treatment programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey to recovery.

What is alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol use disorder is a serious medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite the resulting negative consequences. AUD is often referred to as alcoholism or alcohol dependence.

AUD is diagnosed by looking at criteria such as:

  • Uncontrolled cravings: a strong urge or need to drink that feels overpowering
  • Persistent desire to cut down: unsuccessful attempts to drink less over time
  • Tolerance: needing more alcohol to feel intoxication
  • Withdrawal: symptoms such as nausea, sweating, tremors when alcohol use is stopped
  • Inability to fulfill obligations: drinking impacting work or home life

Individuals who meet even 2–3 of these criteria are showing indicators of impaired control and distress as a result of alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol use disorder has profound effects on brain function. Excessive drinking damages areas of the brain associated with judgment, decision-making, learning, and memory. It can also interfere with and impair liver, kidney, and heart function, cause diabetes, stroke, and a wide range of other negative health effects. Socially, alcoholism negatively affects work, finances, relationships, and virtually every aspect of your life.

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are different in that alcoholism involves physical dependence, while abuse refers to the problem of regular heavy drinking without being dependent. We’ll focus on both alcohol abuse and alcoholism numbers to understand the full scope of problematic drinking patterns in the U.S.

How often does the average American drink?

According to surveys, the average American adult has roughly 5–6 drinks in a typical week. Of course, some people abstain from alcohol altogether, while others may consume a drink on a near-daily basis. 

According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 219.2 million people (78.3%) ages 12 and older said they’ve had at least one drink at some point. In the same year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 23.6% of those older than 21 reported binge drinking. 

Excessive drinking includes binge drinking (five or more drinks on occasion for men or four or more drinks for women) and heavy drinking (15 or more drinks per week for men or 8 or more for women). 

Interestingly, the frequency of drinking tends to decline with age. Younger adults in their 20s and 30s tend to drink slightly more often than middle-aged and older Americans. But across most age groups, a few drinks per week is pretty standard.

If you think you have a problem with drinking, contact Ardu. Our qualified rehab facility can help you quit drinking and adjust to life without alcohol. You’ll also learn how to avoid chronic relapse through our comprehensive and supportive relapse prevention treatment program

What percentage of adults in the U.S. drink alcohol daily?

The statistics don’t show the exact number of adults who drink daily in the U.S. With that being said, several sources provide related statistics to help us understand the alcohol consumption patterns of average American adults. 

  • Gallup News revealed that 63% of adults aged 18 and older drank alcohol in 2020 and 2021, while 36% completely abstained from drinking. 
  • The 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 52.8% of adults aged 18 and over have consumed at least 12 drinks in their lifetime and at least 12 in the previous year. This points to consistency with an average of at least 1 alcoholic drink per month based on the CDC criteria.

Although regular alcohol consumption seems to be common in American adults, youth also struggle with problematic underage drinking.

What are the statistics for underage drinking in the U.S.?

Underage drinking remains a significant public health concern in the United States. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 3.2 million people between the ages of 12 and 20 report binge drinking in 2021. 

Let’s break down underage binge drinking by race and ethnicity.



Black or African-American






Two or more races


The rates of excessive alcohol consumption in underage Americans are even more alarming. 1.7% of males and 1.5% of females ages 12 to 20 drink heavily. Let’s compare the rates across different racial groups.



Black or African-American






Two or more races


The CDC found that 23% of high school students reported drinking alcohol, 11% reported binge drinking, and 5% of drivers drove after drinking.

The good news is that underage drinking rates seem to have been declining over the past decade. From 2015 to 2018, binge drinking and heavy alcohol use in minors declined from 13 percent to 11 percent and 3 percent to 2 percent, according to SAMHSA. 

Despite these reductions in underage drinking, it’s still crucial to stay vigilant. There are ways parents can recognize addiction in teenagers and get them the right support. 

What is the average alcohol consumption in the US per year?

In 2021, Americans consumed around 2.51 gallons of alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) equates this to a person aged 14 and older consumed an average of 535.5 standard drinks in a year. 

In the United States, a standard alcoholic drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of ethanol, alcohol’s main substance. This is the amount found in 12 ounces of regular beer, 8–9 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

US standard drinking sizes
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm

When we compare the standards for moderate drinking, the average of around 530 alcoholic beverages per year exceeds the recommended guidelines and would be considered excessive consumption. If you drink 535 beverages over 12 months, you consume roughly ten drinks per week or just under two drinks daily. 

These numbers are significantly higher than the national guidelines. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, that is  above the recommended moderate limit of up to two drinks per day for men and up to one drink per day for women. 

Even with these sensible drinking guidelines in place, the reality is that too many folks end up going overboard without realizing it. Over time, those extra drinks can quietly trigger the physical signals of alcoholism—early red flags that your alcohol consumption may be taking an unhealthy toll.

What is the percentage of alcoholics in America?

The most recent data from the NIAAA, suggests that around 29.5 million people in America, aged 12 and older, suffered from alcohol use disorder or alcoholism in 2021.

This includes:

Males age 12 and older 

16.6 million (12.1%)

Females ages 12 and older

13 million (9.1%)


18.7 million (11%)


3.5 million (10.1%)

American Indian or Alaska Native people

280,000 (15.6%)


5.1 million (10.3%)


982,000 (6%)

Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander people

144,000 (14%)

People of two or more races

790,000 (14.7%)

These figures represent individuals with AUD. They do not necessarily represent all individuals who consume alcohol in excessive and harmful ways. For example, a Harvard Health study published in 2014 suggested that nearly one-third of American adults drink excessively, but only 10% of them have AUD.

Alcohol use disorder in the United States
Source: https://drugabusestatistics.org/alcohol-abuse-statistics/

The data demonstrates that alcohol takes a real toll across America. Let’s dive deeper to see how the problem affects some states more than others.

Alcoholism statistics by state

The national averages for alcohol use disorder vary at the state level. Wisevoter shows that New Hampshire, Vermont, and Montana are the states with the highest rates of alcohol consumption: 59.5, 49.4, and 48.7 gallons per capita, respectively. Utah has the lowest alcohol consumption rate, coming in at 17.7 gallons of alcohol per capita. 

Here’s a table with the AUD prevalence for each state according to the Mental Health America report. The percentages in the table show the proportion of the population in each state that struggled with alcoholism at the time the data was collected.


AUD prevalence


AUD prevalence















New Hampshire




New Jersey




New Mexico




New York




North Carolina




North Dakota




















Rhode Island




South Carolina




South Dakota




























West Virginia










What percentage of alcoholics recover?

NIAAA reveals that about 36% of people with AUD recover within the first year. This percentage increases as recovering alcoholics maintain their sobriety or keep their drinking level low.

Here are some statistics regarding alcohol recovery:

  • More than one-third of American alcoholics who developed an alcohol dependence more than one year ago are in full recovery. This includes both abstainers (18.2%) and low-risk drinkers (17.7%).
  • The recovery rate depends on the severity of the AUD. People with severe or lifetime alcohol dependence face recovery rates of less than 36%. On the other hand, around 60% of individuals sober for two years after AUD remain sober.
  • The majority of former alcoholics who manage to stay sober for more than five years are typically able to stay sober. 
  • Relapse is a common occurrence in the recovery process. According to research, the relapse rate for alcohol and other substance abuse ranges from 40 to 60% within the first year of recovery. The relapse rate decreases over time. 

Recovery from alcoholism is a lifelong process and depends on many factors such as:

  • Your motivation to change
  • A supportive social network
  • Getting help for underlying mental health issues
  • Healthy coping mechanisms
  • Access to effective treatment and recovery resources

When you stop drinking, your body may take some time to reset fully from alcohol. Ardu is here to support your physical and mental health on your journey to recovery. That’s why our holistic detox process uses natural therapies such as nutritional therapy, meditation, acupuncture, and herbal remedies to heal you from within.

Unfortunately, some people never recover from alcoholism. 

How many deaths were caused by alcohol in 2023?

While it’s too early to talk about the exact number of alcohol-related deaths in 2023, we can look at the statistics for previous years. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reveals a devastating figure: the United States sees roughly 261 alcohol-related deaths every day.

They also found that on average:

These numbers may look bleak, but there seems to be an improvement over recent years. According to the ARDI application, between 2015 and 2019, excessive alcohol use was responsible for more than 140,000 deaths per year, on average. We’ve seen a drop in that number to below 100,000 in 2021, which is good news—but the statistics still show that alcohol continues to take an immense toll.

Contact Ardu Recovery Center if you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction.

Is alcohol consumption in the US increasing or decreasing?

Speaking of good news, alcohol consumption in the United States has seen a slight decrease in recent years. Gallup News reports that a total of 65% of adults reported drinking alcoholic beverages in 2019, while in 2021, that number dropped to 60%. 

The average number of drinks American adults consume per week has also dipped slightly—from 4 to 3.6. 

While this slight decrease is a step in the right direction, alcohol consumption remains a significant aspect of American life. Many people find it difficult to quit after a long period of drinking regularly or being addicted to booze. 

Our addiction recovery center specializes in helping people break free from the grip of alcohol addiction. We are proud to have developed a team of skilled and experienced addiction specialists who can provide the support, guidance, and personalized treatment you need to embark on your journey to recovery.

The recovery process begins with alcohol detox, where we safely and comfortably help you cleanse your body of alcohol toxins. Our medical professionals at our detox center closely monitor your progress to ensure a smooth and safe detox experience. 

Has there been an increase in alcohol consumption since COVID-19?

There has been an increase in alcohol consumption since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), “over half of Americans increased their alcohol consumption during COVID-19 lockdowns.”

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has suggested that “about 25% of people drank more than usual, often to cope with stress.” Alcohol sales jumped by nearly 3% during the first year of the pandemic, marking the largest increase in more than 50 years. Online liquor sales rose 262% in the first 3 weeks of March 2020. 

…60% [of participants] reported increased drinking… compared to pre-COVID-19. Reasons for increased drinking included increased stress (45.7%), increased alcohol availability (34.4%), and boredom (30.1%). Participants who reported being stressed by the pandemic consumed more drinks over a greater number of days, which raises concerns from both an individual and public health perspective. (Grossman, et. al.)

This spike in alcohol purchasing likely translates into increased drinking patterns and more hazardous health impacts. The number of death certificates that listed alcohol-related causes of death soared from 78,927 to 108,791 during the first two years of the pandemic—an increase of nearly 38%.

Research also shows that COVID-fueled drinking patterns returned to pre-pandemic levels by June 2021. With this being said, the ramifications of months of heavy drinking may linger for years to come. As alarming as the US statistics are, alcohol has taken its toll on a global level as well.

What are the statistics of alcoholism worldwide?

Excessive alcohol consumption and alcoholism are a big problem even outside of the U.S. Our World in Data estimates that 107 million people in the world have an alcohol use disorder. Globally, heavy alcohol consumption causes more than 2.8 million deaths every year. 

The highest per capita alcohol consumption rate is found in Europe, particularly in Czechia, where the average person consumes around 15 liters of alcohol per year. (That’s two bottles of wine every week.) In many Asian countries, distilled liquor accounts for the majority of alcohol intake. For example, in India, over 90% of consumed alcohol by volume comes specifically from spirits rather than beers, wines, and ciders.

Here’s the lowdown of the alcohol use disorder statistics across the world:

  • Hungary has the highest prevalence of alcohol use disorders overall, with 21.2% of the total population afflicted.
  • The United States, Russia, and South Korea have a prevalence of 13.9%.
  • Alcohol misuse was the seventh-leading risk factor for premature death and disability globally in 2016.
  • According to the GBD 2019 Risk Factors Collaborators, alcohol use accounted for 2.07 million deaths of males and 374,000 deaths of females globally.
  • Of all deaths attributable to alcohol consumption worldwide in 2016, 28.7% were due to injuries, 21.3% were due to digestive diseases, 19.0% were due to cardiovascular diseases, 12.9% were due to infectious diseases, and 12.6% were due to cancers. (Read more about how alcoholism can lead to cancer.)

Here are the top 20 countries with the highest prevalence of alcohol use disorders.


AUD prevalence


AUD prevalence















Ivory Coast


The United States




South Korea














The United Kingdom






There’s no getting around it; to curb the immense global health burden of alcohol, it’s necessary to curb these hazardous drinking patterns. Heavy intake and dependence don’t only lead to drunken accidents or violence, they will systematically destroy the health and wellness of a population over time. 

If you’re already dependent on alcohol in some way shape or form, you may face some challenges on your journey to sobriety. Ardu is here to provide support every step of the way.

Get help with alcohol abuse

Recovery is a deeply personal journey. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, we at Ardu Recovery Center develop customized treatment plans tailored to your specific needs and goals. The first few weeks after quitting may be the hardest on your body and mental health, as alcohol withdrawal symptoms set in. 

Inpatient treatment at our residential facilities surrounds you with 24/7 support. Outpatient treatment programs, such as partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, offer flexible solutions to maintain your home and work routines or receive treatment while in a sober living facility.

With psychotherapy and other modalities, you will learn healthy coping skills so you aren’t tempted to rely on alcoholic beverages. A variety of therapeutic approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and dialectical behavioral therapy, allow you to find the modality that resonates with you.

If you have a co-occurring mental health disorder—such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder—our dual diagnosis treatment program can help you address both alcohol addiction as well as other mental health issues.

We do everything in our power to help you find your way back to wellness. Our comprehensive recovery program can help restore that healthy, balanced way of life.

Alcohol abuse statistics FAQ

What percentage of alcoholics are violent?

It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact statistic on what percentage of alcoholics exhibit violent behavior. However, research clearly shows a strong link between alcohol abuse and aggression. Alcohol reduces inhibitions and clouds judgment, making some people more prone to destructive outbursts. 

Findings from brain studies indicate long-term alcohol consumption induced morphological changes in brain regions involved in self-control, decision-making, and emotional processing. In line with this, the inherent dopaminergic and serotonergic anomalies seen in aggressive individuals increase their susceptibility to commit violent crimes when alcohol is present in their system.

Alcohol-induced aggression is more prevalent among men, while only a small percentage of women have shown increased aggression in correlation with alcohol consumption. 

What is the alcohol abuse rate in the US?

Roughly 30 million Americans battle alcohol use disorder. That represents over 5% of the American people ages 12 and older. Beyond those with diagnosable alcoholism, many more engage in problem drinking patterns placing them at risk. 

CDC numbers indicate around 38 million American adults binge drink an average of 4 times monthly, typically consuming up to 8 drinks per session. Underage binge drinking remains widespread as well, with over 3 million teens reporting past-month consumption. 

Does alcohol increase abuse?

Recurrent exposure to a problem drinker at home can prompt verbal, emotional, or physical trauma. Research shows that alcohol plays a role in a large share of violent assaults, weapon crimes, rapes, robberies, and domestic abuse. Up to 70% of domestic abusers have drinking problems, and each year, victims report alcohol was involved in around 36% of rapes or sexual assaults. 

Drinking impacts judgment while increasing impulsiveness and aggression. It also reduces inhibitions and impairs the ability to interpret dangerous situations. Abuse rates spike when perpetrators binge drink. 

What percentage of abuse is caused by alcohol?

Alcohol contributes to between 36% and 70% of violent abuse incidents depending on the type of crime. Around 40% of convicted violent offenders consumed alcohol leading up to crimes. Close to half of all homicide perpetrators were intoxicated when committing murder. So, while precise statistics differ from state to state, an abundance of research attributes over a third of violence to alcohol misuse. Interestingly, alcohol-related causes of violence are one of the most frequently cited preventable risk factors.

Does the US have the highest rate of alcoholism?

The US does not have the highest global rates of alcohol use disorder or average alcohol consumption. The WHO reports that Eastern European countries such as Belarus, Moldova, and Russia see far higher alcohol-attributable disease and mortality rates. 

A 2010 World Health Assembly study found US alcoholism rates ranked 48th internationally. While better than leading drinking nations, the US proportion of lifetime alcohol dependence still exceeds most Western European countries. Globally, World Health Organization tracking points to Europe, Africa, and parts of South America outpaced American alcohol abuse by volume consumed per capita and diagnosis rates. 

What country drinks the most alcohol?

WHO data shows that European countries drink the most. Czechia consumption leads globally, with residents drinking a staggering 15.5 liters of pure alcohol yearly. That’s nearly 500 drinks per person annually. Other Eastern European countries like Lithuania, Russia, and Romania see similarly high intakes. Africa’s leading consumers include Uganda and Namibia. 

What are the symptoms of drinking too much?

Acute alcohol intoxication signs include:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing
  • Blue-tinged skin
  • Unconsciousness

These symptoms require emergency treatment as they can quickly become fatal. Over longer spans, red flags such as the inability to control cravings, hiding drinking frequency, prioritizing alcohol, and continuing to drink despite personal or professional consequences indicate dependency and addiction. 

Health impacts accumulate as well, ranging from liver problems to cardiovascular conditions. Additionally, nutritional deficits and mental health issues frequently accompany heavy drinking. 

Is alcoholism genetic?

Genetics influence risks for alcoholism, though not as the sole determiner. Family history plays a major role. Those with a parent or sibling suffering from alcohol use disorder face 2–9 times greater odds of developing it themselves. Twin studies reveal over 50% of the variation in alcohol dependence vulnerability is tied to genetic factors. 

Specific gene variants affect alcohol metabolism, brain signaling pathways, and behavioral control. This exacerbates hereditary susceptibility, but environmental influences are significant as well: trauma, peer pressure, mental health, culture, and other environmental factors shape how genetic predispositions manifest. 

Are all heavy drinkers alcoholics?

Heavy drinking and alcoholism do not completely overlap. Many heavy drinkers exhibit reckless yet non-dependent drinking patterns without addiction’s neurobiological grip. For example, some people sporadically binge when attending parties or social events but abstain for extended periods without cravings or withdrawal. 

Heavy drinking that persists for years often develops into physical tolerance and addiction where brains and bodies adapt to expect alcohol. Once dependent, quitting brings distressing psychological and physiological symptoms. Even non-addicted problem drinkers deal with health issues such as liver disease, cognitive effects, and cardiovascular conditions over time. 

But unlike those with alcohol use disorder, some problem drinkers can adjust intake without needing intensive treatment or intervention. 


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