California is one of the largest states with the most significant population in America. Around 3.8 million residents with diverse ethnicity and economic demographics represent California. 

Alcohol is, by far, the most used and abused addictive substance in the country. One out of every 12 adults suffers from alcohol abuse concerns. Between 2005 and 2009, 50 percent of Californian populations aged 12 and older were reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 years. 

Drinking alcohol is not an issue, as it is an inexpensive, legal for those over age 21, readily available, and socially acceptable drink. Heavy drinking patterns may lead to the development of alcohol abuse. 

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is when a man drinks more than five drinks, or a woman drinks four in about two hours, and the blood alcohol concentration is raised above 0.08 g/dl. 

About a quarter of the United States adult population binge drank in 2013, and it is one of the most common methods of excessive alcohol consumption.  

As per a study by California State Epidemiological Outcome Workgroup (SEOW) Project, 2009—Alcohol remains one of the significant drug abuses among California students and adults, and it is widespread among school-age adolescents. Nearly twice as many students report the use of alcohol from 7th to 11th grade.


Past 30-Day Use of Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drugs among 7th,9th and 11th Graders, California, 2001- 2008


  2001-2002   2003-2004 2005-2006 2007-2008
7th Grade
Alcohol Use  10.4 10 12 14.8
Binge Alcohol Use 2.9 3.7 4.6 6.4
9th Grade
Alcohol Use  29.3 24.7 23.8 27.3
Binge Alcohol Use 13.4 11.5 11.5 15.8
11th Grade
Alcohol Use  40.7 37.1 35.8 41.9
Binge Alcohol Use 26.2 23.3 21.4 29

Source: California Student Survey, 2001-08, California Attorney General’s Office, Retrieved from, February 2009. 


Selected Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption Indicators, California vs. United States, 2007 


Indicators California United States
Binge drinking among adults aged 18+ years  16.90% 15.80%
Binge drinking among women of childbearing age (18-44)  13.40% 14.60%
Heavy drinking among adult females 18+ years  5.70% 4%
Heavy drinking among adult males aged 18+ years 6.50% 6.10%
Cigarette smoking among adults aged 18+ years  14.30% 19.80%


Source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, Chronic Disease Indicators: State Profile, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007. Retrieved from March 2009. 

Prepared by: Epidemiology and Prevention for Injury Prevention Branch, CDPH, March 2009.

Traditionally, men are more inclined towards binge drink than women. Affluent individuals earning $75,000 or more per year are more likely to binge drink. With a high influx of tech jobs and an increase in wealthy professionals in San Francisco, it is no surprise to witness the rise in binge drinking rates in the state. The availability of alcohol and weak alcohol control policies may contribute to the increase of alcoholism among the Californian population. Californian involves binge drinking episodes almost 30 percent since 2002 and may continue to increase. 

Alcoholism Across California: Understand It with Numbers

The Consequences

Alcohol abuse leads to health consequences such as substance-related risk behaviors and poisoning overdoses. This leads to intentional or unintentional injuries and long-term health impacts- chronic liver disease and lung cancer. And the most severe consequence is death.

Number and Rates of Alcohol and Drug-Related Deaths by Type, California, 2005-07

  2005   2006   2007  
  # Rate # Rate # Rate
Mental and Behavioral Disorders  1,042 993 660
Physical Condition  2,831 2,828 3,039
Poisonings  52 42 264
Total  3,928 10.6 3,863 10.3 966 10.5
Mental and Behavioral Disorders  621 534 325
Physical Condition  0 2 0
Poisonings  1,084 1,252 1,333
Pregnancy-related 8 7 5
Total  1,713 4.6 1,795 4.8 1,663 4.4
Total  5,638 15.3 658 15.1 5,629 14.9


Notes: California residents only. Alcohol and drug-related deaths only include deaths with ICD-10 underlying cause of death codes 100% attributable to alcohol or drugs, respectively. 

Source: Death Statistical Master and Birth Statistical Master files, 2005-7, Office of Vital Records, California Department of Public Health (CDPH); Race/Ethnic Population with Age and Sex Detail, 2000– 2050, California Department of Finance, July 2007 

Prepared by: Epidemiology and Prevention for Injury Prevention Branch, CDPH, March 2009.


Number of Alcohol and Drug-related Deaths by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity, California, 2007

  Alcohol  Drug Total
0-20 Years  14 59 73
21-29 Years  75 156 231
30-39 Years  246 267 513
40-49 Years 980 533 1,513
50-59 Years  1,384 499 1,833
60+ Years  1,267 149 1,416
Male 2,990 1,166 4,156
Female 976 497 1,473
Hispanic/Latino  1,288 368 1,656
African-American 236 207 443
American Indian 52 15 67
Asian 106 19 125
Pacific Islanders  5 2 7
White  2,257 1,033 3,290
Multiple Race 16 18 34
Other/Unknown 6 1 7
TOTAL 3,966 1,663 5,629
Alcoholism Across California: Understand It with Numbers

Key Findings

  • Physical conditions such as hepatitis, tissue damage are the most common alcohol-related deaths rather than behavioral disorders.
  • Every year, there is an increase in alcohol-related deaths than those of drug-related deaths. Of 5,629 deaths in 2007, 70% are due to alcohol.
  • Over 10,000 deaths were due to alcohol impacting most deaths among adults.
  • There’s a high chance of chronic causes such as alcoholic liver disease, alcohol-induced stroke, and alcohol dependence than from acute causes such as homicide, motor vehicle accidents, suicides. However, for those under 21 years old, they are much more likely to die from acute causes than chronic.

California Alcohol Abuse Treatment

  • Between 2009-13m, around 186,000 Californians were treated for alcohol abuse every year.
  • The state has launched Alcohol and drug prevention services targeted to younger audiences. Over 51% of those who received services were between 12 to 17 years.
  • In 2012, in Los Angeles County, alcohol was the second most common reason for the prevention treatment admission behind marijuana.
  • Drugs and alcohol are often combined as individuals may battle issues more than one substance at a time. 
Alcoholism Across California: Understand It with Numbers

Alcohol Contribution to Crime

Alcohol impacts an individual’s impulse control functions, decision-making abilities, motor coordination, and reaction time. This results in a hazardous or criminal situation or injury.

In 2007, approx. 14,555 Californians suffered from a non-fatal motor vehicle crash in which alcohol was a significant reason. Around 1,263 alcohol-involved car crash fatalities were witnessed in 2009. Over 160,388 arrests were made in 2013 for driving under the influence (DUI). Almost a quarter of these arrests happened in Los Angeles County.

The primary reason for alcohol arrests in California is due to DUI, liquor law violation, or public intoxication. Alcohol also contributes to severe crimes such as homicide, sexual assault, spousal abuse, child neglect or abuse, or other violent acts.

Around 40 percent of Californian women are involved in physical intimate partner violence at some point in their lifetime.

Alcoholism and Mental Health

Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that induces pleasure and temporarily dull memory of trauma and emotional pain. Alcohol abuse is the first attempt to overcome emotional and mental illness symptoms, and it results in making them worse after a period.

It is estimated that alcohol abuse and mental illness co-occur around a third of the time. This increases the risk of suicidal thoughts.

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