Alcohol Use and Abuse: The Story by Statistics

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April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has released some statistics related to alcohol abuse to increase the public’s awareness of problems stemming from drinking too frequently, too much or too quickly.

The health and social consequences of alcohol abuse are more widespread than many people realize. Alcohol-related deaths are the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. About 80,000 lives are lost each year to causes related to alcohol. The NIAAA hopes that understanding the scope of this issue might help individuals assess or re-asses the risks of their drinking habits.

What the Numbers Tell Us

  • Approximately 18 million people in the U.S. have a diagnosable alcohol use disorder.
  • At some point in their lifetime, about 30 percent of U.S. adults will meet the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol disorder. This includes not only alcoholism but also drinking that has harmful consequences, even though the individual is not yet alcohol dependent.
  • Out of every four children, one will grow up with an adult who has an alcohol problem.
  • Out of every four people with alcoholism, one will get treatment, raising the probability of long-term recovery.
  • Worldwide, the third highest risk factor for early disability or death is alcohol.
  • The cost in health care, lost productivity and property damage related to alcohol is $225 billion every year.

Low Risk Drinking

People who limit their alcohol intake to within the NIAAA's “low-risk” limits are not as likely to experience the negative consequences associated with drinking. Drinking at low-risk levels does not eliminate the possibility of alcohol-related problems since alcohol affects everyone differently.

Low Risk Drinking: Men

To fit the low-risk criteria, you must stay inside the daily and weekly limits.

  • Daily: No more than four drinks on any given day; AND
  • Weekly: No more than 14 drinks during a seven-day period.

Low Risk Drinking: Women (and Men Over 65)

To fit the low-risk criteria, you must stay inside the daily and weekly limits.

  • Daily: No more than three drinks on any given day; AND
  • Weekly: No more than seven drinks during a seven-day period.

The lower drinking limit for women is necessary because women generally weigh less than men and women have less water in their bodies. Less water means that if a man and a woman have the same number of drinks, the woman’s blood alcohol level will be less diluted than the man’s, or of higher concentration.

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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