Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Font Size

Half of All Booze Misused or Abused

Abuse-Among teens And Adults-Accounts For 50% of Alcohol Use In U.S.
WebMD Health News

Feb. 25, 2003 -- Half of all the alcohol in the U.S. is bought and consumed by those who shouldn't do either -- adults who drink too much and kids who drink too young. A new study highlights the fact that alcohol abuse is a common problem -- even among teens.

Of the more than 4 billion drinks served each month across the country, 30% are downed by legal-but-excessive drinkers, while underage imbibers partake of another 20%, suggests new research compiled from federal surveys. Together, these two groups represent fewer than one in four of all American alcohol consumers, yet spend nearly $57 billion on booze each year -- nearly half of the $116 billion spent on all the nation's alcohol.

"What this means is that literally half of all the nation's alcohol is either misused or abused," says Susan E. Foster, MSW, director of policy research and analysis at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. "And that translates to a big public health problem."

Her study, published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, is among the largest conducted to explore U.S. drinking habits. It analyzes data from surveys of 217,000 Americans ages 12 and older and includes newer CDC questionnaires conducted at American schools that offered anonymity to those interviewed. "Previously, most surveys were done in the home, with at least one parent present, so it's doubtful that underage drinkers offered completely honest answers," Foster tells WebMD.

Adult excessive drinking was defined as more than two drinks a day -- with one drink being one can/bottle of beer, one glass of wine, one can/bottle of wine cooler, one cocktail, or one shot of liquor.

While Foster notes that the vast majority of drinking Americans consume alcohol moderately and without negatively impacting their everyday activities, her findings paint a sobering picture of abuse -- especially among the young, whose patterns are already mimicking those of adult problem drinkers:

  • Half of all surveyed teens between 12 and 20 admit to having consumed alcohol at least once. However, those who drink typically do so an average of six times per month -- having six drinks per episode.
  • The youngest drinkers surveyed, between ages 12 and 14, typically drink four times a month and have four drinks per sitting.
  • Adult excessive drinkers, who represent one of every 11 Americans who consume alcohol on any level, average between four and 13 drinks per day.

Today on WebMD

child ignored by parents
prescription pain pills
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Teen girl huddled outside house
Man with glass of scotch
overturned shot glass
assortment of medication
Depressed and hurting