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Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Use Disorder

What is alcohol abuse and excessive drinking?

To begin with, excessive drinking or alcohol abuse (Alcohol Use Disorder) includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21. Binge drinking, the most common form of excessive drinking, is defined as consuming:

  • For women, 4 or more drinks during a single occasion
  • For men, 5 or more drinks during a single occasion

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming:

  • For women, 8 or more drinks per week
  • For men, 15 or more drinks per week

What is considered a standard “drink”? In the United States, a standard drink contains 0.6 ounces (14.0 grams or 1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol can be found in:

  • 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)


Excessive alcohol use is responsible for about 88,000 deaths a year in the United States, including 1 in 10 total deaths among working-age adults aged 20 to 64 years. To illustrate, in 2010, excessive alcohol use cost the US economy $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink.

Binge drinking and alcohol abuse are responsible for over half the deaths and three-quarters of the costs due to excessive alcohol use. According to the CDC, estimates suggest that 37 million US adults—or 1 in 6—binge drink about once a week, consuming an average of 7 drinks per binge. As a result, US adults consume about 17 billion binge drinks annually or about 470 binge drinks per binge drinker.

Chronic Health Effects of Alcohol Use Disorder

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems, including alcohol use disorder and problems with learning, memory, and mental health. Chronic health conditions that have been linked to excessive alcohol use include:

  • High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, and Stroke
  • Binge drinking and heavy drinking can cause heart disease, including cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), as well as irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and stroke.
  • Liver Disease
  • Excessive alcohol use takes a toll on the liver and can lead to fatty liver disease (steatosis), hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
  • Cancer
  • Excessive alcohol use can contribute to cancers of the mouth and throat, larynx (voice box), esophagus, colon and rectum, liver, and breast (in women). The less alcohol a person drinks, the lower the risk of cancer.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of alcohol abuse and excessive drinking, contact us today at Meridian Advanced Psychiatry. We’re here to help!

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