Alcohol Use in Vermont

Alcohol Use in Vermont

What is alcohol?

A standard drink contains 0.6 ounces 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)
What is considered a drink?

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
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 via

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. 

What is excessive drinking?

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

Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men.

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men.

What do the data tell us about alcohol use in Vermont?

National data shows that Vermonters in all age groups - youth (12-17), young adults (18-25), and adults (26+) - drink alcohol at higher rates 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.

data map past month alcohol use

Vermont has similar rates of binge drinking to the United States.

 data map of past month alcohol binge use

It is important to understand the reasons Vermonters are drinking more frequently than others in the U.S. 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 are the health risks of alcohol use?

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research found that an estimated one in five deaths among adults aged 20-49 years is due to excessive alcohol use (Journal of the American Medical Association). The leading causes of deaths from excessive drinking were alcoholic liver disease,  deaths involving another substance in addition to a high blood alcohol concentration, and motor vehicle traffic crashes.

Short-Term Excess use Long-Term Excess Use
Injuries from accidents or violence High blood pressure, Heart disease, Stroke
Alcohol poisoning Liver disease
Risky sexual behaviors Digestive problems
Miscarriage or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) Certain types of cancer
Death Learning and memory problems
  Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety
  Social and family issues
  Alcohol dependence or addiction

There are short-term and long-term mental and physical risks of excess alcohol use. More information is available at the following links:

You should not drink alcohol if you 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.

How can you reduce health risks of alcohol use?

  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. Do not drink in front of people who are under 21
  6. Store your alcohol safely away from children and pets

Curious about your drinking habits? Answer a few confidential questions to learn more