Alcohol Statistics: The Reality of Alcohol Abuse in California

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April is Alcohol Awareness Month. This is an opportunity for professionals in the field, people who used to struggle with alcoholism or are recovering from it, loved ones of people who abused alcohol, activists for better laws regarding alcohol misuse, lawmakers, and communities in general to have productive instances of dialogue that can lead to better policies and more awareness for the general public. It’s essential to go into this month with reputable statistics in hand related to alcohol abuse in California. This is so because, once you look at the numbers, it is much harder to ignore how much of an insidious and prevalent problem alcohol abuse can become.

At the same time, when an individual struggles, their family, loved ones, and everyone around them get some of the whiplash, too. This is why it’s so important to come together to fight Substance Use Disorders like alcohol addictions. Alcohol rehab options in Orange County are available if you or a loved one need immediate help. 

A sign says California surrounded by palms. Alcohol abuse in California stats and figures.
Even though California is doing better than other US states when it comes to the numbers, it is still doing worse than the country as a whole.

The Scope of Alcohol Abuse in California

If we look at the numbers, California is better off than states like the District of Columbia, Alaska, or Colorado. However, California is still worse off than the United States as a whole, with one total percentile over the national average in most alcohol-related statistics. For further explanation, Garden Grove Rehab Center advises of relevant figures related to this issue.

Between the years 2018 and 2019, reported alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year in adults aged 18 and up was 6.7% in the state of California. This is in contrast with 5.7% as the national average. Individuals reporting needing but not receiving treatment for issues related to alcohol use in the same period amounted to 6.5% in California. In contrast, it was 5.4% at the national level. Finally, alcohol-induced death rates between 2018 and 2019 accounted for 16.7 in California and 14.4 in the United States as a whole. This is more than 2% more than the national average.

Alcohol Substance Use Disorders in California surpass illicit drug SUDs in people 12 and older, with 6.3% of all Substance Use Disorders in the state accounting for Substance Use Disorders related to alcohol abuse, 3.6% related to illicit drugs, and only 0.6% of cases relating to pain medication. More than 23.8% of adults aged 26 or older report having binged alcohol in the past month in California, and as many as 34% of adults 18 to 25 report having an alcohol binge between 2018 and 2019.

Demographics and Discrimination in Relation to Alcohol Abuse

When it comes to demographics, as many as 1 in 5 white high school juniors reported drinking alcohol in the last 30 days. Multiracial and Latinx students followed close by. What’s more, alcohol-induced deaths account for 24% of deaths in 2019 in adults 34 and up. 5.1% of deaths in 29 were alcohol-induced and happened to adults 26 to 35 years old. American Indians and Alaskan American Californians have the highest risk of alcohol-induced deaths, with 34.3% of the total deaths in 2019 happening to this population due to alcohol abuse.

40% of Californians receiving Substance Use Treatment in 2019 were abusing alcohol. 3 out of 10 Californians in treatment use both alcohol and some other substance, and 1 out of 10 Californians in recovery use only alcohol. One of the reasons why people turn to alcohol is discrimination. Members of the LGBTQ+ community, even though they live in a progressive state like California, can still suffer from being a marginalized part of the population. This is why there are LGBTQ+ drug rehab options in Orange County.

Two doctors in California holding hands while wearing surgical gloves
Alcohol abuse impacts public health in California in several ways.

Impact on Public Health

Even short-term consequences of alcohol abuse in California can be devastating. This is so because being under the influence of alcohol can drive an individual to do dangerous things like drunk driving or unsafe sexual practices. People can overdose on alcohol or die in alcohol-related incidents like choking on their vomit. As we have previously seen in the last section, a lot of young people die from having too many cocktails. A lot of physical injuries the ER receives every day, both severe and relatively benign, can be traced back to alcohol use.

In the long term, alcohol abuse can lead to liver damage and brain damage. Conditions such as cirrhosis can arise from long-term alcohol addiction and may require a liver transplant for the individual to survive. Alcohol can also impair cognitive function in the long term and lead to depressive states.

Plus, drinking during pregnancy can cause congenital disabilities in the fetus. The baby can be born with heart or kidney defects, for instance. The child can also have gross motor skills, other motor impairments, and cognitive impairments, which can stunt the child’s academic growth and persist well into adulthood. Drinking during pregnancy can also lead to the death of the fetus while still in the uterus and undesired pregnancy loss. This can be heartbreaking for the mother or parent, even if the pregnancy was not planned.

A man in California seemingly passed out from alcohol. We can only see the top of his head and his hand. An empty cup is in front of him.
There are many accidents and injuries caused by alcohol abuse.

Alcohol-Related Accidents and Injuries

According to the California Department of Healthcare Access and Information, in the year 2021, as many as 630,000 Emergency Department visits were alcohol-related. This accounts for 5% of 13 million ER visits that year. Patients aged between 40 and 59 accounted for most of these visits, with 39% of the patients in this age bracket. There are several reasons why older people turn to the bottle. Veterans generally struggle with PTSD and other mental health conditions that drive them to Substance Use Disorders. This is why veteran drug rehab options must be available in Orange County. White and Hispanic people were the ethnicities in the majority of said ER visits, with each accounting for 40.9% of ER visits.

A few dollars on a table, a calculator, pens, and a notepad while calculating the costs of alcohol abuse in California
The costs of alcohol abuse in California are in the billions.

The Economic Cost of Alcohol Abuse

Rosen, Miller, and Simon (2008) estimate that the cost of Alcohol Abuse in California is $38.5 billion. The cost can be broken down as follows:

  • $5.4 would account for money spent to cover medical and mental health after alcohol abuse and Substance Use Disorders involving alcohol.
  • There would be an estimated $25.3 billion in work losses due to alcohol abuse.
  • A final $7.8 billion would go towards criminal justice spending, property damage, and public program costs.

The authors included both fatal and nonfatal cases of alcohol-related incidents of various kinds in their estimate. They considered multiple fronts, including loss of life, damage to private property, lowered quality of life, and other factors.

Efforts to Combat Alcohol Abuse in California

In California, there are industries like Hollywood where alcohol abuse runs rampant. Therefore, it’s essential to make people and communities aware of how much alcoholism can destroy lives. It’s important not to glamorize drinking.

Making people aware of facts and figures, including estimated costs of incidents related to excessive drinking, can help. It can lead individuals and communities to become aware of just how much excess alcohol consumption can damage both individual lives as well as families and entire communities.

Promoting prevention efforts and educating people on just how much a single night of binge drinking can cost is essential. It’s also necessary to reduce the stigma around Substance Use Disorders involving alcohol. The right way to tackle this issue is not to make the people struggling with addiction responsible for the societal problem. The problem of alcohol abuse in California is far more systemic and influenced by social factors than we think.

There are many facilities that offer support in treating this burning issue. The addiction treatment center in Garden Grove has an array of programs to help you overcome your addiction.

It is also good to know what options you have when it comes to insurance plans. At Recovery Beach, we are aware of the primary obstacles to healing that people encounter during their journeys to recovery and how our services, in conjunction with Aetna insurance coverage and Blue Cross Blue Shield rehab coverage, can help overcome these challenges.

Helping to integrate people who struggled with alcoholism in the past can help them not to relapse. What’s more, they can later become educators and advocates themselves.

Finding the Right Path

The road toward recovery is often a long one, and outpatient programs are generally required so people do not relapse. Intensive outpatient programs in Orange County keep our citizens on the path toward recovery. We should also push for policy change when possible. Since alcoholism is a public health issue, the laws around it have to change for a more inclusive and more aware society.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, it’s essential to get help. At Recovery Beach, you can get alcohol detox in Orange County in a safe and supportive environment.


California Department of Healthcare and Information: “Alcohol-Related Emergency Department Encounters in California.”

California Healthcare Almanac. “Substance Use in California: Prevalence and Treatment.” January 2022.

KFF: The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news.

Rosen, Miller, and Simon. “The Cost of Alcohol in California.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Environmental Research. Vol. 32, No. 11, November 2008.

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