America Has a Drinking Problem

USA map on the top of beer

Headlines abound with concerning messages about alcohol abuse. Almost daily we see another report on alcohol-related deaths, drunk driving accidents, alcohol misuse in the home, etc. Does America have a drinking problem?

Across the media airwaves, headlines spark alarm with messages like:

“Alcohol Is Increasingly a Women’s Health Issue.”

“U.S. Alcohol-Related Deaths Have Doubled, Study Says.”

“Alcohol-Related Hospital Admissions Rise 60% Over Decade.”

It would seem as though America has a drinking problem.

But the truth is, America has always struggled with alcohol addiction problems. The difference today is that these problems are worsening, and the media is reporting on it.

What are the actual statistics of alcohol addiction in America? And what would a society that didn’t drink as much look like?

A Brief Look at Alcohol Statistics

It’s easy to become shocked and concerned by media headlines. But we don’t need media reporting to find out how harmful alcohol use is. There is a wealth of information on the harmful nature of alcohol misuse. For example, just the prevalence of drinking in the United States is concerning all by itself. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, at least 86 percent of American adults have consumed alcohol in their lifetimes, 70 percent have drunk alcohol in the past year, and at least 55 percent drink alcohol at least once per month. On top of that, about 14.4 million adults meet the criteria for having an addiction to alcohol.

Alcohol addiction is also a very costly problem. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent/lost each year on the public health costs attendant with alcohol misuse. There is also the loss of workplace productivity, collateral damage from accidents, theft, hospitalization, etc.

Young people are also being hurt by nationwide alcohol misuse. One of the reasons why young people are struggling with alcohol problems in growing numbers is because young people are growing up with alcohol misuse occurring in their homes. About one in ten children in the United States are raised with at least one alcohol-addicted parent.

Alcohol-related hospitalizations are also on the rise. Just in 2014 alone, 5 million people were admitted to hospitals for alcohol-related emergencies.

The Benefits of a Society That Drinks Less

The scale of the drinking problem rivals the opiate epidemic, and in many ways, it exceeds it. And even though alcohol consumption is legal for anyone over the age of 21, there are many arguments for why people should drink less.

What people consider “normal” drinking is almost always too much drinking. The society has gotten to a point where having “a few drinks” is seen as normal and okay. The truth is “a few drinks” is far too much.

Guy and girl are refusing to drink

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate drinking constitutes one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Furthermore, the CDC recommends that people who don’t currently drink, don't now start drinking for any reason. There are little to no health benefits of any amount of drinking, yet there are many potential adverse side effects of even moderate alcohol consumption.

So the first benefit of a society that drinks less would be a healthier society. A healthier community brings with it numerous benefits for everyone.

Another benefit would be the fact that those who are in recovery for alcohol addiction would face fewer temptations for relapse. If recovering addicts were not inundated constantly with environments, groups, advertisements, and events that all revolve around or include alcohol consumption, they would likely find a sober life far easier to maintain.

Yet another benefit would be the lives saved by fewer people drinking alcohol. Just four drinks for a woman is enough to qualify as binge drinking (a level of drinking that takes blood alcohol content level to 0.08 g/dL - grams per decilitre). And for men, five drinks bring BAC (blood alchohol content) to 0.08 g/dL. Blood alcohol content at such a level causes considerable impairment when one is attempting to operate a vehicle or other machinery. A little less than 10,000 people die every year from drunk driving accidents alone. Many of these are innocent motorists and passengers who weren’t drinking at all. The simple truth is that lives would be saved if Americans drank less alcohol.

A health benefit worth mentioning is the long-term benefits of a life that involves minimal alcohol consumption. About 88,000 people die from alcohol misuse each year, but that doesn’t even take into account the non-fatal, long-term health effects of drinking. People live shorter lives simply because of drinking alcohol frequently, but not necessarily misusing alcohol.

According to the Omni Calculator, someone around the age of 30 who drinks just one drink but who drinks it every day for the rest of his life causes a shortening of his lifespan by over ten years. That means regular alcohol consumption is having a slow but undeniable, harmful effect on that person’s health, particularly on the health of their liver. And for that reason, even for those who do not drink to excess, people should still limit their alcohol consumption to an absolute minimum simply because of the long-term damage that frequent drinking has on a person’s health.

Though almost all forms of alcohol consumption have harmful effects on those who drink, alcohol addiction is a very dangerous matter. Alcohol addiction does come from a steady progression from occasional drinking to a drink per day, then to several drinks per day, and so on. Addicts are not made overnight. If the society sought to reduce the overall amount of alcohol consumption that was occurring every year, fewer people would become addicts as a result.

Seeking Alcohol Treatment for Your Loved One

As for those who are currently addicted, the way to help them is with residential addiction treatment programs. If you know someone who is suffering from an addiction to alcohol, you must do everything you can to get them help. Any level of drinking can bring with it harm, and the more alcohol is consumed, the more likely one is to experience irreparable damage.

If you know someone who suffers from an addiction to alcohol, don’t let them drink themselves to death. Contact an alcohol treatment center today.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.