Live Better. Love Better. Work Better.

Does Everyone Drink?

By Andrew McNaughton, LCSW, CADC

Depending on your age and social circle, it certainly may seem like everyone, or nearly everyone, is drinking alcohol, whether it be the occasional drink once or twice a month or regular weekend binges. The reality is, no, of course not everyone drinks, and there are recent statistics to pour over, courtesy of the annual federal government survey. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) releases their results from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). This blog will share some of the findings with you to dispel assumptions many people have about the prevalence of drinking in the United States.

The NSDUH surveys tens of thousands of United States citizens annually. In 2019, SAMHSA completed 67,265 interviews of respondents aged 12 years or older (16,894 were 12-17 years old, with 50,731 being 18 years old and up). The survey:

 …provides nationally representative data on use of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs; substance use disorders (SUDs); receipt of substance use treatment; mental health issues; and use of mental health services among the civilian, noninstitutionalized population aged 12 or older in the United States (SAMHSA, 7).

For this blog, I will focus only on summarizing data about alcohol use, though if you are interested in reading more, the citation for the study and its link are listed at the bottom of this post.

So who is drinking? How much? And how often?

 The survey asked respondents about their alcohol use in the last 30 days at the time they were interviewed. Respondents answering that they had consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the last 30 days were considered Current Alcohol Users. From this group, anyone consuming 5 or more drinks (4 or more for females) in one sitting at least once in the last 30 days are Binge Alcohol Users. Lastly, anyone binge drinking 5 or more times in the last 30 days are considered Heavy Alcohol Users. One standard alcoholic drink is considered 12 ounces of beer (ABV 5%), 5 ounces of wine (approximately 12% alcohol), or 1.5 ounces of liquor (40% alcohol).

 Current Alcohol Users: 50.8% of respondents aged 12 or older in 2019 reported consuming alcohol in the last 30 days. 54.3% of respondents aged 18-25 and 55% of respondents 26 and older reported drinking in the last 30 days.

 Binge Alcohol Users: 23.9% of all respondents 12 or older reported binge drinking. 34.3% of 18-25 year olds and 24.5% of adults 26 and older were binge alcohol users.

Heavy Alcohol Users: Of all respondents 12 and older, 5.8% reported heavy alcohol use. Amongst 18-25 year olds, 8.4% were heavy alcohol users, while 6% of adults 26 and older reported heavy use.


From the survey and its estimates, a little more than HALF of the population of the United States consume a drink in a given month. ONE-THIRD of college aged and young adults may engage in 1 to 4 drinking binges per month, but this drops off to ONE-FOURTH of adults once they reach age 26 and older.

Clearly not everyone drinks alcohol, and the statistics back this up. If you feel a sense of pressure or even obligation to partake because of social influences, or are exposed to billboards, liquor store neon lights, or endless advertisements online and on television attempting to portray frequent drinking as a cultural norm, please remember that this is not how everyone lives. All you have to consider is that approximately TWO-THIRDS of college aged and young adults aged 18-25 are NOT engaging in binge drinking, which goes against every assumption we as a society tend to make about this age group and their relationship to alcohol.

If you are concerned about your alcohol use, Symmetry Counseling has many addiction specialists on our clinical staff. Contact us today for a free initial consultation and connect with a counselor in Chicago.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP20-07-01-001, NSDUH Series H-55). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from

Symmetry Counseling Recent News Image 4
Recent Posts

When to Go to Couples Therapy? When You Notice These 3 Sign

Apr 30, 2024

Zoe Mittman, LSW If you’re asking the question “when to go to couples therapy”, you are in the right place. I am going to spend some time talking about 3 signs couples therapy may be a good fit for you.…

Read More

Healing the Heart – Tips for How to Get Over a Breakup

Apr 23, 2024

Breakups can be extremely difficult for both the heart and the mind. Grieving the loss of a relationship is taxing both mentally and emotionally. Whether you initiated the breakup or are the individual being broken up with, the pain and…

Read More

Surviving the Holidays: 5 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

Apr 16, 2024

Paula Gonzalez MA, LPC, ADHD-CCSP, CIMHP                                                                                         The Christmas holiday season can be filled with “tidings of comfort and joy!.” It can also be filled with lots of invitations to holiday parties that will have you “rockin’ around the Christmas tree…

Read More