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Alcoholism is one of the biggest social problems in the United States today. It affects almost every aspect of American social life.

  • Alcohol contributes to 100,000 deaths annually, making it the third leading cause of preventable mortality in the United States after tobacco and diet/activity patterns.
  • More than seven percent of the population ages 18 years and older -- nearly 13.8 million Americans -- have problems with drinking, including 8.1 million people who are alcoholic.

  • Almost three times as many men (9.8 million) as women (3.9 million) are problem drinkers, and prevalence is highest for both sexes in the 18-to-29 age group.

  • About 43% of U.S. adults -- 76 million people -- have been exposed to alcoholism in the family:  they grew up with or married an alcoholic or a problem drinker or had a blood relative who was an alcoholic or problem drinker.
  • 62% of high school seniors report that they have been drunk; 31% say they have had five or more drinks in a row during the last two weeks.

  • People who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at age 21.

  • 3.1 million Americans -- approximately 1.4% of the population 12 and older -- received treatment for alcoholism and alcohol-related problems in 1997; treatment peaked among people 26-34.

  • Studies of suicide victims in the general population show that about 20% are alcoholic.

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Date of Last Update: 07/27/12