You can’t argue the notion that the United States is a nation of excess. That is especially true when it comes to alcohol. How many people do you know that rigidly stick to drinking moderately? Not many outside the health nuts. The good news is that while a third of American adults drink alcohol excessively, they cannot be classified as alcohol dependent.

The CDC used data on 138,000 adults from 2009 to 2011 to compile the statistics. A chief reason for the excessive classification is adults engaging in multiple binge drinking episodes multiple times throughout a year. Remember that Friday night? Probably not, but that’s how a person gets put in the excessive category.

How is binge drinking classified? For women, consuming four or more drinks for one occasion, five or more for men and if a person drinks eight or more drinks in a calendar week. Ok, now I’m surprised the number is just one in three Americans. Any underage drinking is automatically classified as binge drinking.

Even with the gaudy statistics, only 10 percent of excessive drinkers are what the CDC classifies as alcohol dependent. It’s characterized as an actual craving for alcohol, continued use despite alcohol-related troubles and inability to control their level of alcohol consumption.

More than two-thirds of the people who reported binge drinking 10 times a month could not be classified as alcohol dependent. In all, about 3 percent of adults were alcohol dependent or alcoholics.

Wealth Gap and Alcoholism

Engaging in binge drinking was most common among people with an annual income of $75,000 or more. Alcohol dependency was prevalent among people with incomes of $25,000 and less.

Dangers of Alcohol

Drinking alcohol at any level is dangerous according to the CDC. In all, drinking too much alcohol is responsible for 88,000 deaths in the United States per year. The deaths and injuries add up to a nationwide cost of $223.5 billion per year (2006 figure).

Published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, researchers summed up the dangers of alcohol. “Although alcohol dependence is an important public health problem, these findings suggest that most excessive drinkers are unlikely to need addiction treatment.”

Broader educational campaigns need to be launched enforce drinking and driving law, and to tackle the rise in excessive drinking. While not alcoholics, consuming that much alcohol per week or year is detrimental to long-term health.


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