The Guide to Community Preventive Services

Preventing Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States and is a risk factor for many health and societal problems. In 2006, the estimated economic cost of excessive drinking in the U. S. was $223.5 billion (Bouchery et al 2011). Approximately 5% of the total population drinks heavily and 15% of the population engages in binge drinking (CDCExternal Web Site Icon.

Among adults, excessive consumption can take the form of heavy drinking, binge drinking, or both.

  • Heavy drinking is defined as more than two drinks per day on average for men or more than one drink per day on average for women.
  • Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks during a single occasion for men or four or more drinks during a single occasion for women.

Underage drinking can also be considered a form of excessive drinking because it is both illegal and often involves consumption in quantities and settings that can lead to serious immediate and long-term consequences.

  • People aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks (OJJDPAdobe PDF File [PDF – 1.08MB] External Web Site Icon

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