Study: Heavy Drinkers Are Rarely Alcoholics
Only 1 in 10 excessive drinkers meets the definition of alcoholism
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2014 5:42 AM CST
Updated Nov 23, 2014 6:18 AM CST
Only 10% of women who have four or more drinks in one sitting are likely alcohol dependent.   (AP Photo/Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media Group, Mark Bugnaski)

(Newser) – Frequently drinking too much booze does not mean you're an alcoholic. In fact, it means that only rarely. A new study by the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration finds that 1 in 3 American adults meet the definition of heavy drinking—for men, having five or more drinks in one sitting or 15 or more in a week; for women, having four or more drinks in one sitting or eight or more in a week. But of those so-called "excessive" drinkers, only 1 in 10 also meets the definition of alcoholism or alcohol dependency, which the CDC says involves "a current or past history of excessive drinking, a strong craving for alcohol, continued use despite repeated problems with drinking, and an inability to control alcohol consumption."

The survey of 138,100 adults ultimately suggests that excessive drinking may actually be easier (though still not easy) to deal with than previously thought, reports the New York Times. "We need to think about other strategies to address these people who are drinking too much but who are not addicted to alcohol," the head of the CDC's alcohol program says. Some studies have found that higher alcohol prices lead to lower alcohol consumption, while zoning laws that lower the number of places serving alcohol can do the same. Roughly 88,000 deaths in the US every year are blamed on excessive drinking, costing the country $223.5 billion in 2006, but only 3,700 of those deaths (less than 5%) are actually linked to alcohol dependence. (Last year the CDC found that 1 in 5 women binge drink.)