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Average number of drinks on days drank

Codes and Frequencies

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For sample adults who drank at least once in the past year or don't know how often they drank in the past year (ALCANYNO), ALCAMT reports the average number of alcoholic beverages consumed by sample adults on the days that they drink or drank. Alcoholic beverages include liquor, beer, wine, wine coolers, and any other type of alcoholic beverage.

ALCAMT accommodates responses from 1 to 95+ drinks. Researchers should exercise caution in interpreting very high values for ALCAMT; persons who gave a response of, for example, 95+ drinks may have misunderstood the question (e.g., they may have given a response related to the number of days that they drank or related to a different reference period, such as the number of drinks per year).

In 2020, the National Center for Health Statistics edited responses in 2020 to address a programming error that allowed inconsistent responses. Sample adults reporting at least one day of drinking in the past 12 months (ALCANYNO) but zero average drinks on days that they drank are recoded as "inconsistent."

Beginning in 2020, ALCAMT is collected as part of the rotating core of NHIS alcohol use questions, fielded every other year. For more information about the NHIS alcohol use rotating core, please see ALCDRINKEV.


Several changes in data collection over time limit comparability.

In 1988, the question does not specify the average number of drinks over any period of time; respondents estimate the average number of drinks they consume on the days they drink alcohol. In subsequent years, the question asks specifically about average alcohol consumption on the days the person drank in the past year.

In addition, the 1991 sample is limited to adults ages 18-44 while all other samples include all sample adults who drank in the past year.

Questionnaire design changes introduced in 2019 limit comparability with earlier years. The NHIS questionnaire was substantially redesigned in 2019 to introduce a different data collection structure and new content. For more information on changes in terminology, universes, and data collection methods beginning in 2019, please see the user note.


  • 1988: Sample adults ages 18+ who have had at least 12 alcoholic beverages in the past year.
  • 1991: Sample adults age 18-44 who drank in the past year.
  • 1997-2003: Sample adults age 18+ who drank in the past year, including those who did not know how often.
  • 2004-2018: Sample adults age 18+ who drank in the past year.
  • 2020: Sample adults 18+ who drank at least once in the past year or don't know how often they drank in the past year (ALCANYNO).


  • 1988, 1991, 1997-2018, 2020