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The Drunkest Cities in America

Drunk Town, U.S.A


The United States has a drinking problem.

The average American consumes roughly two and a half gallons of alcohol each year, giving our country the 56th highest alcohol consumption rate in the world, according to data released this year from the World Health Organization. That may not seem like much to write home about, but despite consuming less alcohol than much of the world, our country is still plagued by too many alcohol-related illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were an average of 79,000 deaths each year in the first half of the last decade, and alcohol continues to rank as the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the country. The reason seems to be that while Americans drink less on average than many other countries, there are still too many in this country who are guilty of heavy drinking and binge drinking.

Roughly 5% of those in the U.S. admitted to heavy drinking, defined by the CDC as men having more than two drinks a day and women having more than one, and a full 15% binge drink, meaning that men have had five or more drinks at a time on one or more occasions and women have had four or more. These numbers come from a nationwide survey of more than 350,000 adults that the CDC conducted in 2009.

Needless to say, some parts of the country are worse than others. We’ve analyzed the survey numbers broken down for 180 metropolitan areas across the country to find the 10 cities where residents drink the most. MainStreet ranked the cities by adding up the percentage of residents who admit to heavy drinking and binge drinking, as defined above.

If you’re looking for a place that doesn’t just drink hard on St. Patrick’s Day but all year round (not that we recommend you do), these cities may be your best bet.

Photo Credit: wickenden

10th Drunkest City: Wilmington, N.C.


Wilmington is the birthplace to such great Americans as Michael Jordan and Sugar Ray Leonard, but this North Carolina city also houses more than its fair share of big drinkers as one fifth of the population falls into the binge drinking category.

Heavy Drinkers: 7.5% of the population

Binge Drinkers: 20.2% of the population

Photo Credit: Mel B.

9th Drunkest City: San Francisco, Calif.


Alcohol-related illnesses and injuries have proved so costly in San Francisco that legislators in this city actually tried to add a 7-cent per ounce fee to alcohol in order to cover the costs. The city’s board of supervisors approved the measure in September, but it was ultimately vetoed by the mayor shortly after.

Heavy Drinkers: 8.2% of the population

Binge Drinkers: 19.6% of the population

Photo Credit: worldsurfer

8th Drunkest City: Hilton Head Island, S.C.


Given all the madness that takes place in the world of politics in South Carolina – from its former Governor, who went AWOL with his mistress, to Alvin Greene, the unemployed senatorial candidate – it’s perhaps no surprise that some residents here would need a drink once in a while just to make sense of it all.

Heavy Drinkers: 8.9% of the population

Binge Drinkers: 19.2% of the population

Photo Credit: Lee Coursey

7th Drunkest City: Bridgeport-Stamford, Conn.


As one of the wealthiest states in the country, people in Connecticut may be able to afford a few extra drinks now and then, but that doesn’t mean they should. The residents of Stamford had a wake-up call earlier this year when it was discovered that a group of high school freshmen were found to be binge drinking, leading to at least once case of alcohol poisoning.

Heavy Drinkers: 7.2% of the population

Binge Drinkers: 21.5% of the population

Photo Credit: Neal.

6th Drunkest City: Milwaukee, Wis.


Wisconsin – and Milkwaukee in particular – have repeatedly been singled out for excessive alcohol consumption over the years, and as of 2009, the state had the highest rate of binge drinking and drunk driving incidents. Clearly, this region still needs some help.

Heavy Drinkers: 7.1% of the population

Binge Drinkers: 21.8% of the population

Photo Credit: astrangerinthealps

5th Drunkest City: Bozeman, Mont.


Montana was one of the top five most alcohol consuming states according to a previous MainStreet ranking, (link) and true to that fashion, the state can claim not one but two cities in the top five of this list as well.

Heavy Drinkers: 9.2% of the population

Binge Drinkers: 20% of the population

Photo Credit: Mavroudis Kostas

4th Drunkest City: Butte-Silver Bow, Mont.


Part of the problem in Montana seems to be that many residents start binge drinking early. The state had one of the highest rates of high school binge drinking, as of 2007.

Heavy Drinkers: 6.1% of the population

Binge Drinkers: 23.2% of the population

Photo Credit: gene1138

3rd Drunkest City: Fargo, N.D.


North Dakota ranked high on our list of drunkest states as well, but we’re still not sure why. While the rest of the country has been suffering in this economy, North Dakota continues to have one of the best employment rates and foreclosure rates of any state.

Heavy Drinkers: 8.1% of the population

Binge Drinkers: 21.8% of the population

Photo Credit: afiler

2nd Drunkest City: Kapaa, Hawaii


Many of the cities in the top of this list are located in colder parts of the country, where the best way to spend a Saturday night may be indoors with a drink, but Hawaii is the clear exception, claiming the top two spots on the list of drunkest cities. Indeed, for all the sunshine, residents in Hawaii have their fair share of trouble. The state has a higher than average number of residents with drug problems, and moreover, Hawaii has been forced to take desperate steps to fix its budget, including cutting money for education and reducing its school week to just four days.

For the city of Kapaa in particular, it’s all too telling that a simple search for the phrase “Kapaa alcohol” on Google doesn’t turn up a list of fun bars to hang out at but rather a long list of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers.

Heavy Drinkers: 11.1% of the population

Binge Drinkers: 19.4% of the population

Photo Credit: _cck_

The Drunkest City: Hilo, Hawaii


Like Kapaa, Hilo may not be a household name in the mainland U.S., but the residents in these two cities may be able to drink the rest of the country under the table, for better or worse.

Heavy Drinkers: 9% of the population

Binge Drinkers: 21.7% of the population

Photo Credit: www.bluewaikiki.com

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