Most Heavy Drinkers Are Not Technically Alcoholics

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Man drinking beer.
Photo: George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

Not all heavy drinkers are alcoholics, shows a new government report released this week — in fact, most are just regular old binge drinkers. According to data collected from 138,100 adults in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, just 10 percent of people who drink excessively show signs of alcohol dependence.

The other interesting stat from this report is that nearly 30 percent of Americans have drinking habits that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would call “excessive”: For men, that means five drinks in one sitting, or 15 drinks in a week. For women, it’s four drinks in one sitting, or eight throughout the week. (That’s right: Eight drinks in one week — a glass of wine a night, plus one extra to get you through Scandal — is what defines excessive drinking for women, according to national guidelines.) 

To that end, Dr. Robert Brewer of the CDC’s alcohol program told the New York Times, “So many of the cues people get about drinking behavior in our society are confusing. People think drinking to get drunk is part of having a good time.”

Some sobering (sorry) news as we head into the weekend.