An estimated 88,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

Alcohol is a Factor in Overdose Deaths Attributed to Other Drugs in the US

Alcohol is often consumed before, along with, or after other psychoactive substances, particularly with opioids and benzodiazepines. [08] A persons level of alcohol intoxication will directly affect the level-of-use of another substance. This makes for a dangerous mixture with unpredictable results. And, when combined with alcohols depressive affect, impulsive affect, ability to slow the brain/inhibit reason and affect on judgment a potentially deadly outcome could result.

Alcohol drinking can have negative effects on mental health, causing psychiatric disorders and increasing the risk of suicide. [01] There is also a direct link between alcohol dependence and impulsive suicide attempts. [02, 03] Mental disorders (particularly depression and alcohol dependence) are often associated with cases of suicide. [05] 

In addition, there is a close link between alcohol abuse and depression and it is often difficult to determine which of the two is the main leading condition. Blood alcohol concentration is significantly higher in suicide cases. [07]

1/3 of all US Suicides Involve Alcohol

Suicide attempts are up to 20 times more frequent compared to a completed suicide [01] and this number doesn’t even include the many people who have had suicidal thoughts. 37% of suicide decedents and 40% of non-lethal suicide attempters had used alcohol prior to the event. [09] In 2016, suicide became the second leading cause of death for ages 10–34 and the fourth leading cause for ages 35–54. [11]

196,597 Americans Killed Annually

Reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2016

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is defined as having alcohol dependence and harmful patterns of alcohol use. AUD makes you feel anxious, irritable, and/or stressed when you are not drinking and you can't control how much you drink.

Risk of suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts and completed suicide are each increased by 2–3 times among those with AUDs in comparison with the general population. [04, 05, 06] An estimated 16 million people in the United States have AUD.

In 2015, an estimated 623,000 adolescents ages 12–17 had AUD.


Alcohol use starts before the age of 15 years. In one study, 11% of 8th grade students reported having been drunk at least once in their lifetime, with an increase to 29% among 10th graders and 47% among high school seniors. [19] Young people of 15–24 years, when they are current drinkers, often drink in heavy drinking sessions. According to SAMHSA about 36.9 percent of young adults aged 18 to 25 were binge drinkers in the past month, which corresponds to about 12.7 million young adults.

Three-quarters of the total cost of alcohol misuse is related to binge drinking. In 2010, alcohol misuse cost the United States $249.0 billion. [13] Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men within a couple of hours of each other on at least 1 day in the past month. [14]

Basic alcohol awareness and alcohol use education programs have been found to be ineffective when implemented on their own. [16] These programs assume that individuals aren't aware of the health risks of alcohol abuse, and that when they learn more, they will use less. [16] However, most individuals are aware of the negative consequences of irresponsible drinking but see alcohol consumption as an acceptable risk. Additionally, group and social pressure give way to reason and personal accountability. [17] Fun and socializing were the most important reasons for drinking regardless of the amount. [18] Extensive research to address the problem of college alcohol use indicates that while education is an integral part of the approach for this problem, it is ineffective when used alone as an intervention strategy. [17] Therefore, the only way to effectively reduce alcohol abuse is by promoting group responsibility and by changing the attitude and perceptions about drinking through positive peer pressure and active peer intervention. This is another example that shows how Operation SafeDrive can be effective at combating alcohol abuse.

Operation SafeDrive wants you to help strengthen our communities by choosing to be there for others, by protecting your peers and acting with intervention when necessary. These choices will save lives and make our communities better places to work, play and live.

Global Alcohol Facts

Alcohol resulted in 3 million deaths and is the seventh-leading risk factor for premature death and disability globally.

Harmful use of alcohol caused 1.2 million deaths from digestive and cardiovascular diseases (600,000 for each condition) and 600,000 deaths from cancers. Globally an estimated 900,000 injury deaths were attributable to alcohol, including around 370,000 deaths due to road injuries, 150,000 due to self-harm and around 90,000 due to interpersonal violence. Of the road traffic injuries, 187,000 alcohol-attributable deaths were among people other than drivers. [15]

Globally an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women have AUD (alcohol use disorders). Worldwide, more than a quarter (26.5%) of all 15–19-year-olds are current drinkers, amounting to 155 million adolescents. [15]

01. World Health Organization. Suicide prevention. Geneva: WHO; 2013.

02. Alcohol use disorders increase the risk of completed suicide--irrespective of other psychiatric disorders. Flensborg-Madsen T, Knop J, Mortensen EL, Becker U, Sher L, Grønbaek M
Psychiatry Res. 2009 May 15; 167(1-2):123-30.

03. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Reducing Suicide A National Imperative. The National Academies Press; Washington, DC, USA: 2002.

04. The Association of Alcohol Use Disorders with Suicidal Ideation and Attempts
Rosa M. Crum, MD, MHS, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research 2016

05. Alcohol-Related Risk of Suicidal Ideation, Suicide Attempt, and Completed Suicide: A Meta-Analysis Darvishi et al., 2015

06. A comprehensive model of predictors of suicide attempt in heavy drinkers: Results from a national 3-year longitudinal study
Nicolas Hoertel,Hadi Faiz,Guillaume Airagnes,Carlos Blanco,Rachel Pascal De Raykeer,Silvia Franco,Géraldine Ducoutumany,Cédric Lemogne,Frédéric Limosin, 2018

07. Smith GS, Branas CC, Miller TR. Fatal nontraffic injuries involving alcohol: A metaanalysis. Ann Emerg Med. 1999;33: 659–668. pmid:10339681

08. Drugs most frequently involved in drug overdose deaths: United States, 2010–2014. Warner M, Trinidad JP, Bastian BA, et al. National vital statistics reports; vol 65 no 10. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016

09. Acute alcohol use and suicidal behavior: a review of the literature.
Cherpitel CJ, Borges GL, Wilcox HC. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004 May; 28(5 Suppl):18S-28S.

10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Related Disease Impact

11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC WISQARS: Leading causes of death reports, 1981–2016

12. Borges et al., 2017

13. Sacks, J.J.; Gonzales, K.R.; Bouchery, E.E.; et al. 2010 national and state costs of excessive alcohol consumption. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 49(5):e73–e79, 2015. PMID: 26477807

14. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Binge Drinking: Terminology and Patterns of Use, 2016

15. WHO, Global status report on alcohol and health 2018

16. "NIAAA's Rapid Response to College Drinking Problems Initiative: Reinforcing the use of evidence-based approaches in college alcohol prevention," Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs Supplement, DeJong, W., Larimer, M.E., Wood, M.D., and Hartman, R.(16):5-11, July 2009. PMCID: PMC2701095

17. Fager, Judith & Melnyk, Bernadette. (2004)

18. Hernandez, Lara & Leontini, R & Harley, Kirsten. (2013)

19. Johnston LD, O’Malley PM, Miech RA, et al. Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975–2015:2015 Overview, Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan; 2016