Alcohol: Usage trends

Last modified: Wednesday, 24. December 2008 - 4:00 am

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), close to 14 million Americans use and abuse alcohol. One third are women and the rest are men. Fifty percent of adults in the United States admit to having alcoholism in their family. One out of every four children come from families where alcohol abuse is a problem.

Adult women drink less than men overall, but are more likely to damage their hearts, livers, and brains due to drinking. The death rate for women who drink

large amounts of alcohol frequently is 50% to 100% higher than it is for male alcoholics. Young people who begin drinking before their teenage years are four times more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol than people who begin drinking at age 21. Data taken from The 2000 Monitoring the Future Survey indicate that:

• 22% of middle school students and close to 50% of high school students admit to having tried alcohol.

• 8% of middle school students and close to 30% of high school students report having been drunk from alcohol use.

• 14% of teens from ages 13 to 14 admitted to binge drinking as compared to 30% of high school teens.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) claims that in 1999 “44% of college students reported binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row for males or four or more drinks in a row for females).” The NCADD also reported that binge drinking among college fraternity and sorority students can be higher.


Alcohol Concentration and Effect Relationship

BAC (%)



Mood elevation; slight muscle relaxation


Relaxation and warmth; increased reaction time; decreased fine muscle coordination


mpaired balance, speech, vision, hearing, and muscle coordination; euphoria


Gross impairment of physical and mental control


Severely intoxicated; very little control of mind or body


Unconscious; deep coma; death from respiratory depression


Scope and severity

Over 50% of Americans who currently drink report having a close relative who abuses alcohol; 25% are children of an alcoholic parent. Alcohol abuse can devastate families by causing separation, divorce, and domestic violence, as well child abuse and neglect. Six million children live with an alcohol-abusing parent, and this can result in problems at school such as low attendance, academic difficulties, attention deficit disorders, and behavioral problems. Each year in America, more than 100,000 people die from alcohol-related accidents (cars, falls, fires, drownings, burns), cancer, liver disease, and stroke.

Age, ethnic, and gender trends

According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), “male and female rates of alcohol use among 12-17 year olds were similar in the 1990s for the first time.” Peer pressure, incidence of teenage depression, and a need to fit in are all factors leading to alcohol use by teens. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, women drink most heavily when they are between the ages of 26 and 34. As women and men get older, there is evidence that drinking among men is greater than that of women. College-bound students are reported to drink less than those students not headed for college.

The biochemical reaction of alcohol in the body explains the differences in ethnic susceptibility to alcohol. Dr. Bert Vallee from Harvard Medical School has determined that the enzymes involved in the metabolism of alcohol can vary from ethnic group to ethnic group, and this variation influences the way in which individual members of these groups are affected by alcohol. These enzymes appear to be genetically inherited. For example, alcoholism among Jews and Italians is low compared to the levels seen among Scandinavians, Irish, and French. The ethnic groups with the highest susceptibility to alcohol are the Native Americans and Eskimos. These two groups have difficulty oxidizing and eliminating alcohol from the body. Asian populations show a physical reaction to alcohol sooner than Americans and Europeans because of the genetic makeup in their enzyme groupings that react with alcohol.

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