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.

Alcohol Use, Misuse, Abuse and Dependence (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

In Utah in 2015, 30.3% of adults reported current alcohol use and 11.5 % 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 (4.9 episodes per month) and binge drinkers tend to drink at a higher intensity, meaning more drinks per occasion (7.9 drinks).
Not all who drink excessively are alcoholics or alcohol dependent. Nationally, 9 out of 10 people who drink excessively do not fit the criteria for alcohol dependence. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a medical condition that doctors diagnose when a patient’s drinking causes distress or harm. It includes both alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.
In Utah (2014), 5.44% of the population 12 and older met the criteria for alcohol dependence. This is compared to 6.5% nationwide.

Excessive Alcohol Use (3)

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.
In 2015, 3.7 % of Utah drinkers reported heavy alcohol use compared to 7.0% nationwide.                    
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) (8)

Alcohol has been the most widely used substance by youth in Utah.
Similar to Utah adults, adolescents report much lower rates of current alcohol use (13.6% of 12 graders compared to 39% nationwide in 2013). However, adolescents who do drink in Utah report higher rates of binge drinking. Nationally, about 56% of 12th graders who drank alcohol in the past 30 days also engaged in binge drinking in the past two weeks. In Utah, about 65% of 12th graders reporting 30-day alcohol use also indicated binge drinking.

Research indicates that alcohol use during the teenage years could interfere with normal adolescent brain development and increase the risk of developing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Kids who begin drinking before age 15 have a 40 percent chance of becoming alcohol dependent. In contrast, a person who waits until the legal age of 21 to start drinking has only a 7 percent chance of becoming an alcoholic.

Health Risks of Excessive Drinking (5) (7)

In Utah, from 2006-2010, an average of 530 deaths each year were attributed to Excessive Alcohol Use. 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, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault.
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Any alcohol use by a pregnant woman can harm a developing fetus, resulting

Economic Cost of Excessive Drinking (6)

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 cost estimate in the nation. National costs attributable to excessive alcohol use averaged $1.91 per drink.


  1. Utah’s Indicator Based Information System for Public Health (IBIS-PH), 2015
  2. CDC Vital Signs: Binge Drinking Prevalence, Frequency, and Intensity Among Adults — United States, 2010
  3. Utah State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup Online Data System, 2014
  4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Related Disease Impact (ARDI) application
  6. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2010 National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption 
  7. CDC Vital Signs: Alcohol Poisoning Deaths-United States, 2010-2012
  8. Utah Department of Human Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health and the Utah State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup. Underage drinking in Utah, May 2014.