Alcohol Use in Vermont

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National data also shows that Vermonters in all age groups - youth (12-17), young adults (18-25), and adults (26+) drink alcohol compared to the country overall. People who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at 21.

Vermont also has higher than national rates of binge drinking, which is associated with greater risk of alcohol dependence.

It is important to understand the reasons Vermonters are drinking more frequently and drinking more alcohol per sitting than other Americans. The Health Department is monitoring how our efforts are making a positive difference with young people drinking underage, and to encourage responsible drinking among legal age Vermonters.

What is considered a drink?

A standard drink contains 0.6 ounces (14.0 grams or 1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol. A standard drink is:

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
  • 1.5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

Alcohol by volume (ABV) affects drinking recommendations. ABV is a standard measure of how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in a given volume of an alcoholic beverage (expressed as a volume percent). To calculate drink equivalents, multiply the volume in ounces by the alcohol content in percent and divide by 0.6 ounces of alcohol per drink-equivalent.

Drink Description Drink-Equivalents
Beer, beer coolers, and malt beverages
12 fl oz at 4.2% alcohol 0.8
12 fl oz at 5% alcohol (reference beverage) 1
16 fl oz at 5% alcohol 1.3
12 fl oz at 7% alcohol 1.4
12 fl oz at 9% alcohol 1.8
Wine
5 fl oz at 12% alcohol (reference beverage) 1
9 fl oz at 12% alcohol 1.8
5 fl oz at 15% alcohol 1.3
5 fl oz at 17% alcohol 1.4
Distilled spirits
1.5 fl oz 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol) (reference beverage) 1

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at https://health.gov/our-work/food-and-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/ 

What is moderate drinking?

Moderate drinking is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. It is not recommended that people who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason.

What is excessive drinking?

Excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21.

Binge drinking, the most common form of excessive drinking, is defined as consuming

  • For women, 4 or more drinks during a single occasion.
  • For men, 5 or more drinks during a single occasion.

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming

  • For women, 8 or more drinks per week.
  • For men, 15 or more drinks per week.
When should you not drink?

There are some people who should not drink any alcohol, including those who are:

  • Younger than age 21.
  • Pregnant or may be pregnant.
  • Driving, planning to drive, or participating in other activities requiring skill, coordination, and alertness.
  • Taking certain prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol.
  • With certain medical conditions.
  • In recovery.
What are the health risks?

Short-Term Health Risks

Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These are most often the result of binge drinking and include the following:

  • Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns.
  • Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
  • Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels.
  • Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women.

Long-Term Health Risks

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.
  • Alcohol dependence, or addiction.

By not drinking too much, you can reduce the risk of these short- and long-term health risks.

Here are some tips if you are choosing to drink alcohol:

  1. Drink in moderation.
  2. Drink a lot of water - before, during, and after drinking alcohol.
  3. Eat - especially foods high in protein.
  4. Space out drinks during a night out - the average person breaks down 1 drink an hour.
  5. Take this screening to see if your drinking habits are safe, risky or harmful

VT Helplink logo - vthelplink.org - 802-565-LINKTreatment is Available

If you or someone you know needs help with marijuana – treatment is available! Treatment is effective and people can recover.

For free and confidential alcohol and drug support and referral services, call 802-565-LINK (5465) or visit VTHelplink.org.

Talking With Your Kids

It’s never too early to start a conversation with your kids about drugs and alcohol. When young people have supportive adults in their lives, they are much less likely to use drugs. Open, honest conversations are the best way to influence their behavior.

Here are some tips!

  • Start the conversation early to get ahead of the conversation.
  • Be clear, direct, and specific.
  • Have an ongoing, two-way dialogue.
  • Focus on their goals and explain how drugs can get in the way.
  • Stay positive.

For more tips visit ParentUpVT.org.

For more information visit:

Data and Related Resources

Data and Reports: Information on alcohol use, misuse and dependence in Vermont.

How We Are Doing: Learn more about goals and outcomes being tracked in Vermont.

Alcohol and Aging: What You Should Know

Information from National Experts