Preventing Excessive Alcohol Use

row of alcohol shots

Excessive alcohol use is responsible for approximately 88,000 deaths in the United States each year1 and $249 billion in economic costs in 2010.2 Excessive alcohol use includes

  • Binge drinking (defined as consuming 4 or more alcoholic beverages per occasion for women or 5 or more drinks per occasion for men).
  • Heavy drinking (defined as consuming 8 or more alcoholic beverages per week for women or 15 or more alcoholic beverages per week for men).
  • Any drinking by pregnant women or those younger than age 21.

The strategies listed below can help communities create social and physical environments that discourage excessive alcohol consumption thereby, reducing alcohol-related fatalities, costs, and other harms.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations

The Community Preventive Services Task Force, an independent, nonfederal, volunteer body of public health and prevention experts, recommends several evidence-based community strategies to reduce harmful alcohol use. Learn more about the Community Guide’s findingsExternalexternal icon.


  • Increasing Alcohol TaxesExternalexternal icon
    Alcohol excise taxes may include wholesale, excise, ad valorem, or sales taxes, all of which affect the price of alcohol. Taxes can be levied at the federal, state, or local level on beer, wine or distilled spirits.4
  • Dram Shop LiabilityExternalexternal icon
    Dram shop liability, also known as commercial host liability, refers to laws that hold alcohol retail establishments liable for injuries or harms caused by illegal service to intoxicated or underage customers.5
  • Electronic Screening and Brief Intervention (e-SBI)Externalexternal icon
    e-SBI uses electronic devices (e.g., computers, telephones, or mobile devices) to facilitate delivery of key elements of traditional screening and brief interventions. At a minimum, e-SBI involves screening individuals for excessive drinking, and delivering a brief intervention, which provides personalized feedback about the risks and consequences of excessive drinking.8

Recommended against

US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is an independent panel of non-Federal experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine and comprises primary care providers. The USPSTF conducts scientific evidence reviews of a broad range of clinical preventive health care services and develops recommendations for primary care clinicians and health systems.

How Can I Contribute to the Prevention of Excessive Alcohol Use?

Everyone can contribute to the prevention of excessive alcohol use.

You can

  • Choose not to drink too much yourself and help others not do it.
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines on moderate alcohol consumption (no more than one drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men).12
  • Support effective community strategies to prevent excessive alcohol use, such as those recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task ForceExternalexternal icon.
  • Not serve or provide alcohol to those who should not be drinking, including children or teens and those who have already drank too much.
  • Talk with your health care provider about your drinking behavior and request counseling if you drink too much.

States and communities can:

  • Implement effective prevention strategies for excessive alcohol use, such as those recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task ForceExternalexternal icon.
  • Enforce existing laws and regulations about alcohol sales and service.
  • Develop community coalitions that build partnerships between schools, faith-based organizations, law enforcement, health care, and public health agencies to reduce excessive alcohol use.
  • Routinely monitor and report the prevalence, frequency, and intensity of binge drinking (whether or not adults binge drink, how often they do so, and how many drinks they have if they do).
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI) Web site.
  2. Sacks JJ, Gonzales KR, Bouchery EE, Tomedi LE, Brewer RD. 2010 National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumptionexternal icon. Am J Prev Med 2015; 49(5):e73–e79.