What is Excessive Drinking?
Excessive drinking includes binge drinking and heavy drinking.
Binge drinking is the most common form of excessive drinking. It is defined as consuming:
Binge drinking is responsible for more than 40% of the deaths and three-quarters of the costs due to excessive alcohol use in the U.S.
Heavy drinking is defined as consuming:
Note: Any drinking by people who are pregnant or younger than age 21 is also considered excessive drinking.
Short-Term Health Risks
Drinking too much has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful outcomes. These are often from binge drinking.
- Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drowning, and burns.
- Violence, including homicide, suicide, and sexual assault.
- Alcohol poisoning.
- Behaviors that can result in unintended pregnancy or getting a sexually transmitted infection or HIV.
- Miscarriage and birth defects.
Long-Term Health Effects
Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to chronic diseases and other serious health problems, including:
- Heart and liver disease, and stroke
- Weakened immune system
- Mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety
- Social or family problems
- Alcohol use disorders
The Price We Pay
Excessive alcohol use is associated with more than 140,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. The cost of excessive alcohol use on the U.S. economy is similarly steep.
In 2010, excessive alcohol use cost this country $249 billion. That works out to about $2.05 per drink. The average cost per person was $807. And 77% of these costs were attributed to binge drinking.
Please consult your healthcare provider if you or someone you know needs help with a drinking problem. Other resources include SAMHSA’s Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locatorexternal icon, NIAAA’s Alcohol Treatment Navigatorexternal icon, and the National Treatment Referral Routing Service available at 1-800-662-HELP. These resources can help you find treatment programs in your community and someone to speak with about an alcohol problem.