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7. ALCOHOL USE

Estimates of the prevalence of alcohol use are presented primarily for three levels of use, defined for this report as follows:

Current- At least one drink in the past month (includes binge and heavy use).
Binge use- Five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the past month (includes heavy use).
Heavy use- Five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least five different days in the past month.

In 1995, approximately 111 million persons age 12 and over were current alcohol users, which was about 52 percent of the total population age 12 and older. About 32 million persons (15.8 percent) engaged in binge drinking, and about 11 million Americans (5.5 percent of the population) were heavy drinkers.

About 10 million current drinkers were under age 21 in 1995. Of these, 4.4 million were binge drinkers, including 1.7 million heavy drinkers.

Alcohol usage rates were not significantly different between 1994 and 1995. This was true for all three measures of drinking.

The level of alcohol use was strongly associated with illicit drug use in 1995, as in prior years. Of the 11.3 million heavy drinkers, 25 percent (2.8 million people) were current illicit drug users. Among binge (but not heavy) drinkers, 18 percent (3.8 million) were illicit drug users. Other drinkers (i.e., past month but not binge) had a rate of 5.5 percent (3.9 million) for illicit drug use, while only 1.9 percent (1.9 million) of nondrinkers were illicit drug users (Figure 7).

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This page was last updated on June 16, 2008.