Excessive Alcohol Use: The Problem

Excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 140,000 deaths each year in the United States and more than $249 billion in economic costs.

Binge drinking

Consuming four or more drinks per occasion for women; five or more drinks per occasion for men

Heavy drinking

Consuming eight or more alcoholic drinks per week for women or 15 or more alcoholic drinks per week for men

Any drinking by
pregnant women

Any alcohol use by
those under the age
of 21 years

Excessive Drinking

Excessive drinking is linked to many chronic illnesses, including cancer and heart disease, and acute harms such as injuries. In fact, alcohol is a contributing factor to the leading causes of deaths among young people: unintentional injuries (e.g., motor vehicle crashes), suicide, and homicide. Importantly, alcohol is attributed to harms to people other than the drinker, including violence, child maltreatment and neglect, financial harms, and general social disorganization. People other than the drinker and local and state governments bear most of the financial and social costs of excessive drinking.

Binge drinking is the deadliest, costliest, and most common pattern of excessive drinking in the U.S.

≥4 drinks for women and ≥5 for men, per occasion

46%

of the deaths due to excessive drinking

60%

of the Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL)

77%

of the economic
costs

90%

of excessive drinkers
binge drink

46%

of the deaths due to excessive drinking

60%

of the Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL)

77%

of the economic costs

90%

of excessive drinkers binge drink

Almost half of all alcohol-attributable deaths are
from binge drinking

Alcohol is attributed to

47%

of homicides

32%

of falls

28%

of motor vehicle crashes

24%

of suicides

18%

of firearm injuries

Alcohol also contributes to harm to people other
than the drinker

Physical, sexual,
and psychological
violence

Property crimes

Social disorganization

Harms to fetuses
from drinking by
pregnant people

Financial harms

Earlier age of initiation of drinking and increased frequency among youth in the same household

Crashes involving
other drivers

Child neglect and maltreatment

Physical, sexual, and psychological violence

Property crimes

Social disorganization

Harms to fetuses from drinking by
pregnant people

Financial harms

Earlier age of initiation of drinking and increased frequency among youth in the same household

Crashes involving other drivers

Child neglect and maltreatment

Alcohol and COVID-19

Sales from off-premise alcohol outlets were up 30% in 2021 compared to 2018 and 2019 (Census Bureau retail sales data).

Nearly 1 in 4 adults (23%) reported drinking more alcohol to cope with pandemic-related stress (American Psychological Association).

Many states made temporary and/or permanent changes to alcohol policies that have made alcohol more available in communities across the nation.
What is the cost of excessive drinking?
$249 billion in economic costs (2010) or ~$2.05/drink
People other than the drinker and local and state governments bear most of the cost of excessive drinking.

Research Updates

A November 2022 study in JAMA Network Open suggests that an estimated 1 in 8 total deaths among US adults aged 20 to 64 years were attributable to excessive alcohol use, including 1 in 5 deaths among adults 20 to 49.

Research documents trend of increased alcohol-related visits to emergency departments during Covid-19. Visit rates were higher in all quarters during 2020 compared with corresponding quarters during 2018–2019, with the greatest difference in the second quarter (+24%).

A study in JAMA concludes that alcohol-related deaths increased by nearly 26% during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the largest increases in deaths occurring among people aged 25-44.

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