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20 Drunkest States in the US

In this article, we are going to discuss the 20 drunkest states in the US. You can skip our detailed analysis of the financial impact of alcohol in America, the effect of taxes on alcohol abuse, and the recent shifts in the global alcohol market, and go directly to the 5 Drunkest States in the US.

Since time immemorial, alcohol has been a part of the social fabric of human life on earth. Although its true origin is lost in the mists of history, the first signs of alcohol show up around 7000 BC, when a fermented drink was produced from honey and wild yeasts in ancient China. The drink is also considered to have driven a significant portion of early societal development. In 1877, an archaeologist named James Death went so far as to suggest that the invention of beer even preceded the invention of bread. That might imply that the reason mankind ever settled down into an agricultural lifestyle was to produce enough grain for beer. In fact, the oldest known recipe in the world is not for food, but how to make beer.

The Financial Impact of Alcohol in America: 

As we mentioned in our article – US Alcohol Exports by Country: Top 15 – booze plays an enormous role in the American economy. As of 2021, the total share of the beverage alcohol market in the U.S. represented almost $250 billion and over 3.4 billion cases sold. Beer/FMB/hard seltzer accounted for 43.5% of value share, followed closely by spirits at 39.5%, and wine at a 17% share.

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The U.S. alcohol beverage industry is responsible for sustaining more than 4 million jobs and generating almost $70 billion in annual tax revenue. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the economic benefits the industry provides to late night restaurants and pizza shops. Per the Beer Institute, the beer industry alone supports 1.75 million jobs. From the farmers harvesting the barley in your beer, to the beer truck driver, to your local bartender, every aspect of your drink exists because of someone in the alcohol industry working hard behind the scenes.

However, there’s obviously also a downside to the heavy alcohol consumption in America. According to the CDC, excessive drinking costs the country around $249 billion annually, when combining healthcare expenditures, lost earnings and productivity, criminal justice implications, vehicle crashes, property damage, and more. The federal government picks up roughly $100 billion of the tab, largely through Medicare and Medicaid payments. Several evidence-based strategies can help reduce excessive drinking, including increasing alcohol excise taxes, limiting alcohol outlet density, and commercial host liability.

The Effect of Taxes on Alcohol Abuse: 

The booze industry argues that alcohol excise taxes do not reduce heavy drinking because of substitutions to lower-cost products and that these taxes disproportionately burden low-income drinkers. Alternatively, over the last two decades, a growing number of economists have examined the impact of alcohol beverage taxes and prices on alcohol consumption and heavy drinking. Several of these studies have focused on high-risk populations, such as youth and young adults, including college students.

This research, using a variety of different data and empirical approaches, has generally found that an increase in the prices of alcoholic beverages led to reductions in drinking, heavy drinking, and the consequences of alcohol use and abuse. These findings indicate that a rise in alcoholic-beverage taxes could be a highly effective option for reducing alcohol abuse and its consequences.

Increasing alcohol taxes could not only improve public health, but also reduce the disparity between alcohol-related costs and total alcohol taxes in states. It could help prevent the reallocation of the societal cost of drinking from those who drink excessively to the general public. Conversely, if specific excise taxes are not increased, these are likely to further erode over time because of inflation, which could result in an even greater disparity between alcohol taxes and alcohol-attributable costs. Due to their higher levies on booze, several of the names in our list of States with the Highest Alcohol and Beer Tax also rank among the States that Drink the Least Alcohol per Capita.

According to a study conducted by the NCD Advisory Council’s signature initiative working group, if countries of the WHO European Region were to introduce a minimum level of 15% tax on the retail price per unit of alcohol, regardless of the type of alcoholic beverage, it would save 133,000 lives each year.

Recent Shifts in the Global Alcohol Market

From Japan to the United States, global drinking habits have shifted dramatically in recent years. While it may look like the alcohol industry is set to achieve a multi-trillion dollar mark in the coming decades, recent changes in consumer behavior suggest that the market, as we know it today, may be in danger of running dry.

The global low and no-alcohol consumer trend is a significant shift in the drinks industry, driven by increasingly health-conscious consumers seeking alternatives to traditional alcoholic beverages. Millennials and Generation Z are the main insurgents, driving a transformation in choice and demanding more from their drinks. These younger generations are adopting a healthier lifestyle and reaping the benefits of going alcohol-free – but they're not the only ones. From fitness fans and healthy lifestylers to a renaissance in older living, knowing what you're putting into your body is now a key priority. While the low- and no-alcohol trend is taking off in the Western world, another region that holds opportunities for this sector is the Middle East, where alcohol is banned in many countries. In 2019, Saudi Arabia was recorded to have the sixth-largest global market for alcohol-free beer consumption.

Several booze companies have hopped on the zero-alcohol bandwagon, and are now offering products with all of the taste and none of the booze. Budweiser Zero was launched in 2020 by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (NYSE:BUD) as the company’s first non-alcoholic beer, setting itself up as the industry standard. The beer behemoth also reportedly bought the exclusive rights to supply the 2022 FIFA World Cup for $75 million. However, as the sale of alcohol is strictly controlled in Qatar, Bud Zero ended up being the only brew available at the stadiums during the whole event. Any regular Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (NYSE:BUD) products with standard ABVs were limited to the eye-wateringly expensive private boxes, or designated fan zones far from the stadiums.

The brewing giant also recently scored a sponsorship for the upcoming Olympic Games, making it the first beer company to ever sponsor the grand event. The IOC specifically highlighted Corona Cero – the non-alcoholic version of the global best-seller Corona – as the beer of choice for the partnership, which will stretch from the upcoming Paris 2024 Summer games to Los Angeles 2028 Summer games.

Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (NYSE:BUD) is included among the 11 Best Brewery and Distillery Stocks to Buy Now.

With that said, here are the States that Have the Heaviest Drinkers in America.

20 Drunkest States in the US
20 Drunkest States in the US

Pixabay/Public Domain

Methodology: 

To collect data for this article, we have referred to the 2023 Surveillance Report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, looking for the States that Consume the Most Alcohol in America. Findings in this report are based on alcoholic beverage sales data collected by the Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System (AEDS) from the states or from the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association. The following states have been ranked by their per capita alcohol consumption in gallons, based on population aged 14 and older. The data collected in this report is for the year 2021. When two or more states had the same level of alcohol consumption, we ranked them by their alcohol-related death rates instead.

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20. California

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 2.72 gallons

Excessive drinking during the Covid-19 pandemic increased alcoholic liver disease deaths so much that the condition killed more Californians than car accidents or breast cancer. California is the state where people drink the most in the U.S., with 88.59 million gallons of ethanol consumed in 2021.

With 156 million gallons consumed per annum, California also has the honor of being among the States that Drink the Most Wine.

19. Louisiana

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 2.74 gallons

Louisiana was the last state in the country to switch the legal drinking age to 21, however, some loopholes still exist. The Pelican State ranked second-highest in the country for excessive drinkers with 22% – that's over 1.02 million residents.

18. Massachusetts

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 2.79 gallons

Alcohol abuse costs Massachusetts at least $5.6 billion annually, while causing thousands of deaths and illnesses, according to a new analysis from Boston University researchers. With an excessive drinking rate of 23.1%, the state capital of Boston was included among the Drunkest Cities in America in 2023.

17. Missouri

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 2.81 gallons

Home to Anheuser-Busch, Missouri is a major center of beer brewing and ranks among the U.S. States With the Highest Beer Consumption per Capita. Due to the state’s permissive alcohol laws and big appetite for delicious brews, it is now home to more than 160 craft breweries, producing traditional German-style lagers, wheat beers, ales and old-style stouts, as well as experimenting with new blends and flavors.

16. Oregon

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 2.82 gallons

Due to the extremely low state taxes on beer and wine, Oregon is a drinker’s paradise. The state boasts more craft distilleries than Kentucky and is second only to California in the number of wineries. In fact, Portland is the city that has the highest concentration of independent craft distilleries in the world, making it an ideal destination for discovering handcrafted spirits and liqueurs with unique flavors.

15. Rhode Island

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 2.87 gallons

Although small in size, the state of Rhode Island is quite big on alcohol. Nearly 1 of every 5 Rhode Island adults (19.7%) reports binge drinking at least once a month. The same goes for high-school students, at 18.3%. Both are higher than their respective national average.

14. Minnesota

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 2.92 gallons

Minnesotans have been known to raise a pint or two. Recent data from the CDC found that over 1,100 Minnesotans died in 2021 as a result of binge drinking. This record figure is an extremely conservative estimate that doesn’t factor in drunk driving and other deaths indirectly caused by alcohol abuse, but it is still more than homicide and suicide combined.

13. Alaska

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 2.92 gallons

Alaska has a reputation as a hard-drinking state with simple tastes. However, the state’s alcohol preferences are changing and it’s drinking less beer, more liquor and more wine. It's also drinking less mainstream beer and more craft beer.

12. Maine

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 2.97 gallons

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol is the most widely misused substance in the state by youths and adults. 667 Mainers died due to alcohol related causes in 2021 – a 47% increase from 2019.

11. Florida

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 2.98 gallons

The Sunshine State is one of the largest beverage alcohol markets in the United States. In 2021, there were 175 million cases of beer sold, followed by 28.5 million cases of wine, and 20.1 million cases of spirits in Florida.

10. Wyoming

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 3 gallons

Drunk driving is a serious problem in Wyoming, with the state having the second-highest rate in the country of people killed in crashes involving a drunk driver – 6.78 per 100,000 people. Although the Equality State is famous for its moonshine, it also has a budding craft beer culture, with over 40 micro-breweries present.

Folks in Wyoming love a good drink, putting it among the Top 10 Drunkest States in the country.

9. Colorado

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 3.06 gallons

In 2022, more than 1,500 people died from excessive drinking in Colorado, a slight decline from the previous year but still significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Colorado sits among the States with the Most Craft Breweries. There are 440 breweries in the Centennial State and together they produce over 834,000 barrels of beer, with a total economic impact of $2.42 billion.

8. Vermont

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 3.13 gallons

Vermont is home to a thriving spirits industry, producing a wide variety of products from vodka and maple liqueurs to gin and rye whiskey. In 2022, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed legislation lowering taxes on ready-to-drink spirits, the latest front in an ongoing battle within the alcoholic beverage industry that pits distillers against beer and wine makers across the country.

7. Wisconsin

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 3.15 gallons

Wisconsin has one of the lowest alcohol tax rates in the country, resulting in lower retail and wholesale prices. Some of the drunkest counties in America are in the Badger State and it also has 7 of the 10 U.S. cities that drink the most alcohol per capita.

With a binge drinking prevalence of 23.5%, Wisconsin is the State where Alcoholism is Most Common in America.

6. North Dakota

Ethanol Consumption per Capita: 3.3 gallons

North Dakota is counted among the States with the Highest Rates of Drunk Driving Deaths, with a staggering 47% of all motor vehicle-related deaths involving alcohol. Beer is the most popular drink in the Peace Garden State, with ND consuming almost 20.9 million gallons of brew in 2021.

The heavy influx of oil workers over the last decade has also contributed to North Dakota ranking 6th among the Drunkest States in America.

Click to continue reading and see the 5 Drunkest States in the US.

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Disclosure: None. 20 Drunkest States in the US is originally published on Insider Monkey.