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Alcoholism

United States Alcoholism Statistics: How Big of a Problem Is It?

A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP, Kaushik Misra, Ph.D., Amy K. Epner, Ph.D., and Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D.

We have discussed that alcoholism is a specific type of addiction. The financial cost of addiction to the citizens of the United States is staggering. We can do no better than to quote the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), retrieved from their website: http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/understand.html

"Drug abuse and addiction have negative consequences for individuals and for society. Estimates of the total overall costs of substance abuse in the United States, including productivity and health- and crime-related costs, exceed $600 billion annually (emphasis added). This includes approximately $181 billion for illicit drugs, $193 billion for tobacco, and $235 billion for alcohol. As staggering as these numbers are, they do not fully describe the breadth of destructive public health and safety implications of drug abuse and addiction, such as family disintegration, loss of employment, failure in school, domestic violence, and child abuse."

Data reported for 2010 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011):

  • 51.8% of the U.S. population aged 12 or older are current drinkers of alcohol. This means an estimated 131.3 million people currently drink alcohol. This is similar to the 2009 estimate. It also means that roughly half the population does not currently drink alcohol.
  • Nearly one quarter (23.1%) of the U.S. population aged 12 or older participated in binge drinking during past 30 days. This is about 58.6 million people. The rate in 2010 is similar to the estimate in 2009. The survey defined binge drinking as having five or more drinks at least 1 day in the 30 days prior to the survey.
  • 6.7% of the U.S. population aged 12 or older, or 16.9 million people reported heavy drinking. This rate was similar to the rate of heavy drinking in 2009. The survey defined heavy drinking as binge drinking on at least 5 days in the past 30 days.
  • 40.6% of young adults in the U.S. (age18 to 25) participated in binge drinking and the rate of heavy drinking was 13.6%. These rates were similar to the rates in 2009.
  • 12.0% of persons aged 12 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year. The rate of driving under the influence of alcohol was highest among persons aged 21 to 25 (23.4%).
  • 8.9% of the U.S. population aged 12 or older would meet the diagnostic criteria for a drug or alcohol use disorder (substance use disorder). This was an estimated 22.1 million persons. Of these, 2.9 million were classified with a substance use disorder of both alcohol and illicit drugs. 4.2 million were classified with a substance use disorder for illicit drugs but not alcohol. 15.0 million were classified with a substance use disorder for alcohol but not illicit drugs.
  • 23.1 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an alcohol or substance use disorder. Of these only 2.6 million people received treatment at a specialized addiction facility.
  • Of the 20.5 million persons aged 12 or older in 2010 needing substance use treatment but not receiving it, 1.0 million persons (5.0 percent) reported that they felt they needed treatment for their drug or alcohol use problem. Of these 1.0 million persons who felt they needed treatment, 341,000 (33.3 percent) reported that they made an effort to get treatment, and 683,000 (66.7 percent) reported making no effort to get treatment.

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