Excessive Alcohol Use

Excessive Alcohol Use

If you or someone you know has been poisoned by excessive alcohol use,

call 9-1-1 or the Utah Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately!

Calling is free and confidential.

Drinking too much is associated with a range of adverse consequences, and increases your risk for a variety of both short and long-term health risks.
In Utah, fewer adults and adolescents report current alcohol use in the past 30 days as well as binge drinking when compared to the national average. However, among drinkers in Utah, binge drinking is happening with a high intensity and frequency. Utah is also ranked 7th in the nation for the number of alcohol poisoning deaths.

Excessive Alcohol Use (1) (2) (3)

In Utah in 2016, 31.7 percent of adults reported current alcohol use and 12.5 percent reported binge drinking. Current alcohol use and the overall binge drinking rates are well below the national average. However, Utah is among the states with higher frequencies of binge drinking (4.7 episodes per month) and binge drinkers tend to drink at a higher intensity, meaning more drinks per occasion (8.2 drinks).


Nationally, 9 out of 10 people who drink excessively do not fit the criteria for alcohol dependence. A severe alcohol use disorder, previously known as alcohol dependence or alcoholism, is a chronic disease.  Some of the signs and symptoms of a severe alcohol use disorder could include:

  • Inability to limit drinking.
  • Continuing to drink despite personal or professional problems.
  • Needing to drink more to get the same effect.
  • Wanting a drink so badly you can’t think of anything else.

Excessive alcohol use includes:

  • Binge drinking
  • Heavy drinking
  • Any alcohol use by pregnant women
  • Underage Drinking: Any alcohol use by anyone younger than 21

Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks on an occasion for a woman or 5 or more drinks on an occasion for a man.


Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for a woman or 15 or more drinks per week for a man.

Underage drinking is defined as any alcohol use by anyone younger than 21.

                  
What is a standard drink?
In the United States, one "standard" drink contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol
  • 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol

Underage Drinking (4) (5)

Alcohol has been one of the most widely used substances by youth in Utah.
Similar to Utah adults, in 2017, adolescents report much lower rates of current alcohol use than the national average (8.8% of 8, 10 and 12th grade students compared to 19.8% nationwide in 2016). The prevalence of binge drinking among youth who did drink (2017: 50.8%), however, was much closer to the national average (2015: 57.8%). 
Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience:

  • School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
  • Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
  • Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
  • Physical and sexual assault.
  • Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
  • Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
  • Memory problems.
  • Abuse of other drugs.
  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
  • Death from alcohol poisoning.

In general, the risk of youth experiencing these problems is greater for those who binge drink than for those who do not binge drink. Youth who start drinking before age 15 years are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years.

Health Risks of Excessive Drinking (3) (6) (8)

In Utah, from 2011-2015, excessive alcohol use was responsible for an average of about 700 deaths each year. From 2010-2012, an average of 33 people died each year from alcohol poisoning, making Utah 7th highest in the nation for the number of alcohol poisoning deaths.
Listed below are health risks associated with excessive drinking

  • Chronic conditions. Over time, excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure, various cancers, heart disease, stroke, and liver disease.
  • Sexual risk behaviors. Excessive drinking increases sexual risk behaviors, which can result in unintended pregnancy, HIV infection, and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Motor vehicle crashes. Excessive drinking can lead to motor vehicle crashes, resulting in injuries and deaths. Binge drinkers are responsible for most of the alcohol-impaired driving episodes involving US adults.
  • Violence and injuries. Excessive alcohol use can lead to falls, drowning, homicide, suicide.
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Any alcohol use by a pregnant woman can harm a developing fetus.

Economic Cost of Excessive Drinking (7)

Excessive alcohol use, such as binge drinking, harms Utah’s economy through health care and lost productivity costs. Excessive alcohol use cost Utah about $2.74 per drink, the highest per-drink cost estimate in the nation. National costs attributable to excessive alcohol use averaged $1.91 per drink.

References

  1. Utah’s Indicator Based Information System for Public Health (IBIS-PH), 2016
  2. CDC Vital Signs: Binge Drinking Prevalence, Frequency, and Intensity Among Adults — United States, 2010
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alcohol and Public Health
  4. Utah Prevention Needs Assessment Survey, State of Utah. (2017)
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Underage Drinking Fact Sheet, 2015
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Related Disease Impact (ARDI) application
  7. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2010 National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption 
  8. CDC Vital Signs: Alcohol Poisoning Deaths-United States, 2010-2012