Alcohol Facts & Statistics: Latest Research on Alcohol, Drinking Trends, and More
Author: Thomas Roth
Last Updated: 7/15/2022
Research on alcohol and alcohol abuse disorder (AUD) changes every year. Each year, new data is released on how many people drink alcohol and how many lives alcohol affects. Numerous statistics display the impact of alcohol on multiple groups of people. Several surveys from organizations like The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) have found that more than 50% of people consume alcohol regularly. Overall, interpreting the data can show how severe alcoholism is across the world and provide insight into how to handle the issue.
The facts and statistics about alcohol also show important information about how the substance impacts different genders. Learning about alcoholism and its dangers can save lives, heal families, and even mend relationships. Below are the facts, statistics, and new research about alcohol and alcohol abuse disorders.
What are the Facts About Alcohol?
There are many facts about alcohol. The facts about alcohol display the negative effects of alcohol and how it impacts people in the short term and long term. Additionally, the facts about alcohol also show how alcohol abuse disorder (AUD) is dangerous. There are also some facts about alcohol that point to the positive effects of alcohol consumption (in moderate amounts).
Below are some of the facts about alcohol.
- Alcohol has different effects on men and women
- Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to drop
- Moderate alcohol consumption may help prevent heart disease
- Numerous factors influence how people react to alcohol
- Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant
- Alcohol is among the most commonly misused addictive substances
- Men are more likely to use alcohol than women
- Alcohol does not warm you up
- Alcohol may be nearly as old as civilization
- Teens who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are more likely to develop alcohol dependence
These are only a handful of the facts about alcohol. Depending on the individual, alcoholism can impact everyone differently.
1. Alcohol has Different Effects on Men and Women
According to research from CDC, alcohol affects women differently. In fact, several studies have shown that women have higher levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) after drinking the same amount of alcohol. There are a few reasons for this but the primary cause is women having less body water than men. However, women process alcohol faster than men.
While alcohol causes women to become intoxicated faster than men, men are more likely to abuse alcohol. According to data from several surveys, 56% of men consume at least 12 standard drinks per week, while only 34% of women consume 12 standard drinks per week.
2. Alcohol Can Cause Blood Sugar Levels To Drop
Alcohol causes blood sugar levels to drop because the liver needs to break down the alcohol. When alcohol is processed in the liver, it blocks the liver from performing other functions like blood sugar regulation. In these cases, blood sugar drops because the liver can’t process glucose effectively. Changes in blood sugar from alcohol consumption are more dangerous for people with preexisting conditions like diabetes.
While alcohol causes blood sugar levels to drop, consuming one or two standard drinks can raise blood sugar. To prevent blood sugar from dropping when consuming alcohol it’s important to only consume one or two standard drinks every hour. Eating meals high in carbohydrates can also help with maintaining blood sugar levels when drinking alcohol.
3. Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Help Prevent Heart Disease
Moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of heart disease in older women and men. It can reduce heart disease rates because ethanol causes changes in lipids and other hemostatic factors. Alcohol can also thin the blood, so it can help with blood flow in older adults. While alcohol can help reduce the risk of heart disease in moderate amounts, the same is not true for heavy alcohol consumption.
Heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of heart disease. When consumed in high quantities alcohol damages organs in the body and influences the risk of plaque developing in arteries. Heavy alcohol consumption can also lead to other problems like liver disease, brain damage, and trouble with alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal can cause fluctuations in heart rate that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
4. Numerous Factors Influence How People React To Alcohol
There are a handful of factors that influence how people react to alcohol. People react to alcohol differently based on genetic factors, family drinking history, alcohol tolerance, alcohol intolerance, body weight, and even gender. These factors can influence how much alcohol causes intoxication and how well the body processes alcohol.
Some other factors that influence how people react to alcohol include mental health disorders and medications. Mental health disorders can lead to co-occurring disorders, which are categorized as an addiction to alcohol that’s influenced by a mental health problem (like anxiety). Additionally, mixing alcohol with medications can amplify alcohol’s intoxicating effects.
5. Alcohol is a Depressant
Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. When alcohol enters the body it enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain. Once alcohol reaches the brain, neurotransmitters begin to slow down. When this occurs, alcohol’s euphoric effects can be felt. While alcohol has euphoric effects, its depressant qualities also cause drowsiness and reduced coordination. In large quantities, alcohol can lead to slowed breathing, trouble walking, and even death.
People also use alcohol to treat anxiety and depression disorders because it can slow down thoughts and reduce anxiety or stress. However, using alcohol to treat mental health issues is dangerous and not recommended. Treating problems with alcohol increases the risk of alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorders.
6. Alcohol is Among the Most Commonly Misused Addictive Substances
Alcohol is one of the most misused addictive substances in the world. According to many sources, there are more than three million cases of alcoholism reported each year in the United States. Globally, alcohol is also an issue. Surveys suggest that about 76 million people worldwide struggle with an alcohol abuse disorder.
When it comes to the statistics of alcoholism it gets worse. In the United States, about 6% of all adults are alcoholics. Plus, around 700,000 adolescents and teenagers are diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder each year. Furthermore, almost 90,000 people die each year from alcohol-related problems in the United States.
7. Men are More Likely To Use Alcohol Than Women
Men are more likely to use alcohol than women. Data suggests that 54% of men consume 12 drinks per week, while only 34% of women consume 12 drinks per week. When looking at alcohol-related death statistics it’s also clear that alcoholism is more prevalent in men. For example, 7% of male deaths are attributed to alcohol, while only 2.6% of female deaths are attributed to alcohol.
Men are more likely to use alcohol than women for a few reasons. First and foremost, alcohol interacts with the ventral striatum region of the brain, which is associated with pleasure and more prevalent in men. Men also have lower body fat percentages than women (on average), so they need to drink more alcohol to feel intoxicated (alcohol is stored in fat).
8. Alcohol Does Not Actually Warm You Up
Alcohol does not warm you up. When alcohol is consumed it can make someone feel warm because blood vessels dilate. When blood vessels dilate more blood reaches the skin, which is what causes people to feel warm. While you might feel warmer when drinking alcohol, more blood reaching the skin increases heat loss. Therefore, drinking alcohol causes the body to lose heat; feeling warm is only an illusion.
It’s also important to note that binge drinking and high blood alcohol levels can lead to hypothermia. As alcohol effects the body it struggles to maintain its temperature. Alcohol can reduce body temperature below 96-98 degrees Fahrenheit. Overall, alcohol is not a good source of warmth or warming up in cold conditions.
9. Alcohol May Be Nearly As Old As Civilization
Chemical analysis of jars from the Neolithic Era suggests that alcohol is nearly as old as civilization. In fact, some researchers have found that alcohol predates civilization. There are even claims that suggest alcohol was a driving factor for the development of farming and the agricultural revolution. More research needs to be done on the subject but it’s clear that alcohol has been around since the dawn of civilization.
Some notable dates include 7000 B.C.E. There was a village in China, Jiahu, which had jars with traces of fermented alcohol. While discoveries can help identify how long alcohol has been around, it’s not yet known if alcohol was consumed around the world until later dates. Still, some traces of fermented alcohol date back to 9000 B.C.E.
10. Teens Who Begin Drinking Before the Age of 15 Are More Likely to Develop Alcohol Dependence
Teenagers who begin drinking before the age of 15 have a high risk of developing alcohol dependence. Because the brain is still in the early stages of development, the brain is susceptible to addiction. Teenagers who grow up with alcoholic parents also have an increased risk of developing an alcohol abuse disorder. Statistics also show that teenagers in high school consume a lot of alcohol, with 17% of high schoolers binge drinking.
Teenagers are also more likely to develop alcohol dependence because they’re unaware of the consequences of underage drinking. Adolescents and teenagers also have a higher chance of entering the later stages of alcoholism in their 20s and 30s, which can lead to a shorter lifespan and a harder time quitting alcohol. Peer pressure from friends can also make it harder for teenagers to stop drinking, especially once they reach the legal drinking age.
What is the Percentage of People who Drink Alcohol Every Day?
According to several studies, the average American adult consumes more than one alcoholic beverage per day. However, many teenagers and young adults (under the age of 21) consume alcohol and partake in binge drinking. Based on per capita alcohol consumption (based on sales models), the average American consumes approximately 1.35 drinks each day. That adds up to about 9 alcoholic drinks per week and almost 500 alcoholic drinks per year.
There have also been surveys conducted by organizations like The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. These surveys have found that many alcoholics consume up to 3 or 4 standard drinks per day and sometimes even more. It’s also important to note that fewer women drink alcohol every day compared to men. While men are close to the 1.35 average, women fall between .8 and 1.2 alcohol drinks per day. So, there are also some key differences between men and women in this category.
What are Some of the Most Common Misconceptions About Drinking Alcohol?
There are three common misconceptions surrounding alcohol. The first misconception is that drinking more alcohol over time is okay because a person’s tolerance increases as they drink more. While it’s true that the body develops a tolerance to alcohol, that doesn’t make alcohol safer to drink. Organs like the brain and liver continue to get damaged when drinking or abusing alcohol, regardless of someone’s tolerance.
Another misconception is that weaker alcoholic beverages like beer won’t get you as intoxicated as liquor. While liquor has a higher alcohol percentage, most alcohol is the same. Therefore, drinking five beers can have the same effect on someone as drinking five shots of vodka. This misconception originates from the speed at which liquor can be consumed compared to beer and wine. Beer and wine are consumed slower, on average, which is why people don’t always become intoxicated. However, chugging five beers in one hour will have the same effect as drinking five shots in an hour.
The last important misconception is that coffee and other stimulants sober people up. While coffee or stimulants can make someone feel soberer, caffeine has no impact on blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Therefore, intoxication levels remain the same. That said, caffeine and other stimulants can make someone feel less drunk because the stimulant effects of coffee counteract alcohol’s depressant effects.
What is the Difference Between Binge Drinking and Heavy Drinking?
Binge drinking is the act of drinking an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period. For women, binge drinking is about three to four standard drinks in an hour and for men, it’s about four to six standard drinks in an hour. A standard drink is the equivalent of one 12-ounce beer. Heavy drinking, on the other hand, can be categorized as alcohol abuse that occurs daily or for extended periods.
Heavy drinking can also be short-term drinking or long-term drinking. For example, a heavy drinker can consume several drinks throughout the day. However, some definitions of heavy drinking include drinking daily, which is considered an alcohol addiction. Therefore, most heavy drinkers are alcoholics.
It’s also important to note that people who participate in binge drinking have a high risk of developing alcohol addiction. Binge drinking can lead to an increased risk of addiction because college-aged and underage drinkers binge drink the most. Adolescents, teenagers, and young adults have the highest risk of alcoholism.
What is the Difference Between Consuming Alcohol and Addiction to Alcohol?
There are a few key differences between consuming alcohol and alcohol addiction. Consuming alcohol is the act of drinking alcohol, while an alcohol addiction occurs when someone can’t control the urge to drink. Alcohol addiction can also be categorized as binge drinking, which occurs when men or women consume more than four alcoholic beverages in an hour.
Consuming alcohol can be done safely in moderation with little to no negative effects. To avoid alcohol addiction, it’s best to not consume more than one or two standard drinks per day. When more alcohol is consumed, the risk of developing an alcohol abuse disorder increases.
Alcohol consumption can also lead to alcohol addiction. Individuals who consume alcohol each day have a high risk of becoming addicted to alcohol, especially if it’s used as a self-medication technique for stress and anxiety. Once someone experiences symptoms of alcohol withdrawal they can be categorized as an alcoholic. Withdrawal is a key indicator of addiction because it means the body is dependent on alcohol to maintain balance.
What Are the Long-Term Risks of Consuming Alcohol?
Alcohol is a dangerous substance, especially when it’s abused for many years. The long-term risks of consuming alcohol vary but there is a noticeable decline in health among every person who abuses alcohol. Some long-term risks of drinking alcohol can also be fatal and lead to early death.
Abusing alcohol for decades can lead to several of the problems below.
- Liver disease
- Liver failure
- Alcohol-related brain damage
- Changes in blood sugar levels
- Changes in blood pressure
- Heart problems (failure, heart attack, and stroke)
- Damaged relationships
- The inability to hold a career
- Financial problems
- Alcohol-related dementia
- Wet brain (Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome)
- Weight gain
Depending on the individual, people can experience one or more of these problems when abusing alcohol for many years.
Why Do People Drink Too Much or Too Often?
People drink too much or too often because alcohol is an addictive substance that has euphoric intoxicating effects. When someone drinks alcohol they feel happy, which can lead to further alcohol abuse. People also turn to alcohol as a method for coping with stress and other mental health disorders. Keep in mind that alcohol should never be used in these ways. Using alcohol to treat mental health problems or cope with stress increases the risk of alcoholism.
People also drink too much alcohol because alcohol causes changes in brain chemistry. When alcohol is abused it replaces systems in the brain responsible for serotonin. Therefore, the brain needs alcohol to maintain balance. If someone stops drinking alcohol at this time it can lead to many negative health effects and alcohol withdrawal.
These are the reasons that people become addicted to alcohol and drink too much. So, how much alcohol is too much? According to most statistics, consuming more than two standard drinks per day for men and more than one standard drink per day for women increases the risk of alcoholism.