Drunkenness / Intoxication Has Changed Over Time: 1979-2000

The average (mean) number of alcoholic drinks reported by individuals in the US as the minimum number required to “feel drunk” has dropped significantly between 1979 and 2000.

Samples of individuals representative of the US population had been surveyed in the 1979, 1995, and 2000 National Alcohol Surveys conducted for the Alcohol Research Group. The research was based on the responses of 3,707 people and was funded by the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Average Number of Drinks to Feel Drunk
Average Number of Drinks to Feel Drunk

There was a significant decline in the number of drinks reported as being required to feel drunk. Between 1979 and 1995, the decrease for men was slightly over two and a quarter drinks, and for women it was slightly over one drink. Between 1995 and 2000, the number for men additionally dropped by nearly one drink and that for women by about one-half drink.

Over the period, the total decrease in number of drinks reported by men was 32.06% and by women it was 26.93%

The researchers conclude that these dramatic reductions reflect a significant change in American drinking culture toward increased moderation.


  • Kerr, William C, Greenfield, Thomas K., and Midanik, Lorraine T. How many drinks does it take you to feel drunk? Trends and predictors for subjective drunkenness. Addiction, 2006, 101(10), 1-10.

Filed Under: Alcohol Abuse