Excessive Alcohol Use

Drinking less alcohol can lower the risk of chronic disease and injuries. Although some adults adhere to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans on alcohol by either not drinking or limiting consumption to up to one drink in a day for women or two drinks in a day for men, excessive alcohol use remains common among Idahoans.

Idaho statistics

Excessive alcohol use is a leading preventable cause of death. From 2015 to 2019, there were an average of 700 deaths each year from excessive alcohol use among Idahoans.1 This includes deaths that are fully due to alcohol use (e.g., alcohol dependence, alcohol poisoning) and deaths that are partially from alcohol use (e.g., motor vehicle crashes, injuries, cancer, heart disease). 

In Idaho, 15 percent of adults binge drink, defined as four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men during a single occasion. Among those, 25 percent consume at least eight drinks per occasion.Additionally, 16 percent of high school students binge drink in Idaho.Excessive alcohol use in the state of Idaho totals $1.1 billion or $1.62 per drink sold per year in economic cost of excessive drinking due to lost productivity, criminal justice, and health care costs in 2010. 4

    Alcohol and Opioids
    Drinking alcohol while using opioids increases the risk of overdose and death.
    Alcohol and Your Health

    SHort-term effects of excessive alcohol use

    • Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns.
    • Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
    • Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels.
    • Sexual risk behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
    • Miscarriage and stillbirth among pregnant women or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among their children.

    Long-term effects of excessive alcohol use

    • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
    • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum.
    • Weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick.
    • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
    • Mental health conditions including depression and anxiety.
    • Social problems, including family problems, job-related problems, and unemployment.
    • Alcohol use disorders, or alcohol dependence.

    Alcohol and Other Substance Use

    • Drinking alcohol with medications can also cause health problems or death.
    • Always check with your healthcare provider before drinking while taking prescription medicine.
    • Using alcohol and certain other substances, including other depressants like opioids or benzodiazepines, together or within a couple of hours of drinking can result in:
      • Difficulty or stopping breathing.
      • Damage to the brain, heart, and other organs.
      • Death.

    Alcohol Use Disorder

    • Excessive drinking increases a person’s risk for alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is a medical disease often showing compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using alcohol.
    • If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s alcohol use, talk to your doctor or health care provider about treatment options.

    Alcohol Use FAQ

    What does alcohol do to the body?

    Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that it is a drug that slows down brain activity. Drinking alcohol can change your mood, behavior, and self-control. It can cause problems with memory and thinking clearly. Alcohol use can also affect your coordination and physical control.

    Alcohol also has effects on the other organs in your body and it can increase your risk of several different chronic diseases, such as liver disease, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and cancer.

    The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020 – 2025, recommends that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation.

    What is moderate drinking?

    The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020 – 2025, define moderate drinking as up to one drink in a day for women and up to two drinks in a day for men, among legal drinking-aged adults.

    By adhering to the Dietary Guidelines on alcohol, you can reduce the risk of harm to yourself or others.

    What is excessive drinking?

    Excessive alcohol use includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, any alcohol use by people under the age 21 minimum drinking age and any alcohol use by pregnant women.

    Binge 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 a standard drink?

    A standard drink is 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. The picture below helps visualize how “one drink” looks across beverage types. Alcoholic drinks vary in types, sizes, and alcohol content. Similarly, the way alcohol affects the body will differ from person to person. 

    Who should not drink alcohol?

    According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, there are some people who should not drink any alcohol, including those who are:

    • Younger than age 21.
    • Pregnant or may be pregnant.
    • Driving, planning to drive, or participating in other activities requiring skill, coordination, and alertness.
    • If they have certain medical conditions or are taking certain medications that can interact with alcohol.
    • If they are recovering from an alcohol use disorder or if they are unable to control the amount they drink.
    • The Dietary Guidelines also state that not drinking alcohol is the safest option for women who are lactating. Learn more about breastfeeding and alcohol use: Alcohol | Breastfeeding | CDC.
    Drink Less, Be Your Best

    Choosing to drink less alcohol can help you be your best. Being your best could mean enjoying your golden years in good health, feeling refreshed and rested each morning, or having more money in the bank. Drink less and be your best.

    Want to check your alcohol use?
    This quick assessment can help you check.
    Prevention of Excessive Alcohol Use

    Communities and state and local organizations can help prevent the harms from excessive alcohol use. The following evidence-based strategies are recommended by the Community Preventative Services Task Force (Preventing Excessive Alcohol Use | The Community Guide). Learn more about these strategies: What Works Fact Sheet: Excessive Alcohol Consumption (thecommunityguide.org)

    • Regulation of Alcohol Outlet Density
      • Alcohol outlet density refers to the number and concentration of alcohol retailers (such as bars, restaurants, liquor stores) in an area.
    • Increasing Alcohol Taxes
      • Alcohol taxes may include excise, ad valorem, or sales taxes, all of which affect the price of alcohol. Taxes can be levied at the federal, state, or local level on beer, wine, or distilled spirits.
    • Dram Shop Liability
      • Dram shop liability, also known as commercial host liability, refers to laws that hold alcohol retail establishments liable for injuries or harms caused by illegal service to intoxicated or underage customers.
    • Maintaining Limits on Days of Sale
      •  States or communities may limit the days that alcohol can legally be sold or served.
    • Maintaining Limits on Hours of Sale
      • States or communities may limit the hours that alcohol can legally be sold or served.
    • Enhanced Enforcement of Laws Prohibiting Sales to Minors
      • An enhanced enforcement program initiates or increases compliance checks at alcohol retailers (such as bars, restaurants, and liquor stores).
    • Electronic Screening and Brief Intervention (e-SBI)
      • e-SBI uses electronic devices (e.g., computers, telephones, or mobile devices) to facilitate delivery of key elements of traditional screening and brief interventions. At a minimum, e-SBI involves screening individuals for excessive drinking, and delivering a brief intervention, which provides personalized feedback about the risks and consequences of excessive drinking.

    1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Related Disease Impact (ARDI) application, 2022. Accessed April 25, 2023. Available at www.cdc.gov/ARDI.  

     2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System: 2021 BRFSS Survey Data and Documentation. Accessed November 22, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/brfss/annual_data/annual_2021.html

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: Youth Online High School Results. Accessed November 22, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/results.htm

    Sacks JJ, Gonzales KR, Bouchery EE, Tomedi LE, Brewer RD. 2010 National and state costs of excessive alcohol consumption. Am J Prev Med. 2015;49:e73–e79.


    This webpage is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $166,667.00 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.