Drink, Drank, Drunk: These Are the Drunkest States in America
Americans like to party. Typically, that means downing a good amount of alcohol, getting drunk, and engaging in risky behavior — be it with a stranger at a bar or with leftover fireworks. Of course, people all over the world like to drink to their heart’s content. In fact, some countries outclass Americans when it comes to sheer drinking ability. But comparing Americans to other Americans, there are some states you can say are “drunkest.”
Although alcohol and social drinking is a fixture in almost every community across the country, there are still some holdouts. Many people would be surprised to learn there are still dry towns and counties in modern America. Some states have complicated liquor laws, but in others you can buy a fifth of whiskey as easily as you can an Arizona iced tea.
We looked at binge drinking rates among American adults — using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System — to see which states’ residents drink more than the rest. Interestingly enough, almost all of the states near the top of the list are in the northern part of the country.
Ranking the states according to the prevalence of binge drinking (with 2015 data), here are America’s drunkest states.
Way to go, Sam Adams. You’ve helped land Massachusetts among the nation’s drunkest states. This is the first New England state on our list, but it sure isn’t the last. According to the CDC’s data, 18.7% of adults over the age of 18 in Massachusetts reported they had engaged in binge drinking over the course of one year. You can kick off a revolution sober, but it sounds much better after a few drinks.
We didn’t have to go far, geographically speaking, to find No. 14. It’s actually just one state over (or up) — Vermont. Vermont isn’t a large state and has a relatively low population. But boy oh boy do they like to drink, those Vermonters. The state, like many others, is home to a slew of small and craft brewers and actually has more breweries per capita than any other state.
It’s not just when the Cavaliers win the NBA finals or when the Buckeyes are playing Michigan. No, the fine people of Ohio like to down their drinks all year round. Per the CDC data, 19.5% of Ohio’s 18-and-over population have reported binge drinking over the course of the year. That’s enough to land them at the 13th spot on our list. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ohio is also home to more than 1 million convicted drunk drivers.
Who doesn’t want to have a drink or two while enjoying the tropical wonderland that is Hawaii? Let’s face it — a lot of people go to Hawaii with intentions to drink. They’re trying to relax, after all. But the homegrown population is also fond of its beer, spirits, and wines. According to the CDC, 19.8% of Hawaii’s adult population has reported engaging in binge drinking.
So, you’re not a Buckeye. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to get trashed while tailgating on Saturdays in the fall. That’s what lands Michigan at the No. 11 spot, with the CDC’s data showing 19.8% of the adult population reporting at least one binge-drinking session. Maybe it’s due to the fact that Michigan is home to the country’s cheapest cases of beer.
We mentioned our list would be composed almost entirely of northern states. Well, it doesn’t get any more northerly than Alaska — quite literally. A full fifth — 20% — of Alaska’s adult population reported a binge-drinking session during the course of a year, per the CDC. With marijuana legalization having already swept the state, it’ll be interesting to see whether that changes.
Now, we go from one corner of the country to another.
Another state that recently legalized marijuana for recreational use is Maine. And again, it’ll be interesting to see whether that has any impact on the drinking habits of Maine’s residents. Because when it comes to drinking, Mainers are up there among the most enthusiastic in the country. According to the CDC data, 20.2% of Maine’s over-18 population reported binging.
Over in the Midwest, Nebraska boasts a similar profile to many other states on our list. Namely, it’s largely rural, and its residents are crazy about college football. Alcohol and college football go hand in hand, and Nebraska fans evidently like to get after it on autumn Saturdays.
Per the CDC’s data, 20.5% of Minnesota’s adult population admits to binge drinking. Is it the sub-zero temperatures in the winter months that force Minnesota’s finest to turn to the drink? Or perhaps it’s those muggy, hot, mosquito-filled summers? Either way, the folks in Minnesota like to put them away. And Sunday liquor sales are just beginning in the state.
We’re not through with the Midwest — not by a long shot. And speaking of shots, Illinois residents love them. They also love beer and wine. The CDC’s data shows 20.8% of the state’s adults reported a binge session at some point in 2015. Interestingly enough, there’s also something of an alcohol sales trade war happening between Illinois and Indiana.
We’re still not done with the Midwest, and Iowa is next up on our list. Landing at No. 5, a full 21.3% of Iowa’s adults admit to binge drinking. As you might have noticed, Iowa is another state that shares similarities — and borders — with others on our list. It’s in the north and largely rural.
Fun fact: Iowa’s favorite alcoholic beverage is Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey.
Montana is Big Sky Country. It has grizzly bears, national parks, and congressman who body slam reporters who ask them about legislation. You could say a lot of people in Montana could use a drink to calm down — or at least deal with bear-related anxiety. Either way, Montana is among the country’s drunkest states. According to the CDC, 21.3% of Montana’s adults reported binging in 2015.
3. Washington, D.C.
It’s not a state, but the District of Columbia lands near the top of our list at No. 3. There aren’t really any bears to worry about in D.C., but violent congressman? That’s a maybe. And the stresses related to public service and government are probably one of the reasons so many people in D.C. binge drink. In all, it’s 24.4% of D.C.’s adult population, according to the CDC.
What’s one thing that comes to mind when you hear Wisconsin brought up? It might be cheese or football. But for millions, it’s beer. Milwaukee’s baseball team is named the Brewers, after all. According to the CDC, 24.4% of Wisconsin’s adults reported binge drinking in 2015. And given the state’s large number of breweries and craft beer makers, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise.
And now, we see the nation’s drunkest state.
1. North Dakota
If you managed to put all of the pieces together, good on you. If not, here it is: North Dakota is the king of America’s drunks. According to the CDC’s data, nearly a full quarter (24.9%) of the state’s adults reported binge drinking in 2015. North Dakota has a familiar ring to it, as it’s located along the northern border and is one of the most rural states in the country. The next time you’re in Fargo, buy everyone a round.