Alcohol

Get the facts on alcohol and the impact abusing alcohol can have on people.

Slightly more than half of Americans aged 12 or older report being current drinkers of alcohol. SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) – 2014 (PDF | 3.4 MB) reports that in 2014 there were 139.7 million current alcohol users aged 12 or older, with 23% classified as binge drinkers and 6.2% as heavy drinkers. About 17 million of these, or 6.4%, met criteria for an alcohol use disorder in the past year. Excessive alcohol use, including underage drinking and binge drinking (drinking 5 or more drinks on a single occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women), can increase a person’s risk of developing serious health problems, including brain and liver damage, heart disease, hypertension, and fetal damage in pregnant women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol use causes 88,000 deaths a year. Many Americans begin drinking at an early age. According to the SAMHSA report Behavioral Health, United States, 2012, about 24% of eighth graders and 64% of twelfth graders used alcohol in the past year.

According to the NSDUH:

  • Men are more likely to report heavy alcohol use (binge drinking for 5 or more of the past 30 days) than women, 9.3% to 3.2%.
  • The percentages of those aged 12 or older who were current heavy alcohol users were 7.1% of non-Hispanic whites, 4.5% of African Americans, 9.2% of American Indian or Alaska Natives, 4.6% of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders, 2.0% of Asians, 5.8% of people reporting two or more races, and 5.1% of Hispanics.
  • Only 8.9% of people aged 12 or older who needed treatment for alcohol use actually received specialty treatment for their alcohol use problem.

For more information on alcohol facts and its effects on your brain and body, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

For more information about the treatment of alcohol use disorders, including medication-assisted treatment, visit the Behavioral Health Treatments and Services topic. For more information about alcohol use disorders, see the Mental and Substance Use Disorders topic.

Last Updated: 10/30/2015