Rethink the Drink

How excessive drinking affects people living in Oregon

  • More than 2,000 people die each year from excessive alcohol use, 3 times the number who die from other drug overdoses.
  • Six people die from alcohol-related reasons every day.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption is the No. 3 preventable cause of death (after tobacco use and obesity).
  • More than 1 in 5 people drink excessively.
  • It’s not just a problem for high school and college kids: people in their 30s and 40s binge drink at close to the same rates as younger people.
  • Certain populations experience unjust stressors and disadvantages due to racism and discrimination, which has led to higher rates of alcohol-related harms. These include Black and Indigenous communities, as well as people with lower incomes and less education.

Health harms of excessive drinking

  • Excessive drinking increases the risk for cancer, liver failure, heart disease and depression.
  • Binge drinking increases the risk for high blood pressure and strokes.
  • Excessive drinking contributes to three types of liver disease: fatty liver, alcohol-related hepatitis and cirrhosis.
  • Regular, heavy drinking increases your risk for breast cancer and prostate cancer.
  • Every drink can increase your risk for long-term health problems, like heart disease, cancer and depression.

What we mean by excessive drinking

  • OHA utilizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definition of excessive alcohol use. Excessive drinking includes both heavy drinking, and binge drinking.
    • Heavy drinking, the kind that can harm your health long-term, is 15 drinks or more a week for a man. For a woman, it’s 8 drinks
    • Binge drinking is when a man has 5 or more standard drinks in one two-hour occasion. For women, it’s 4 or more drinks
  • What is a standard drink, in terms of Alcohol by Volume (ABV)?
    • 12 fl oz. beer (5% ABV)
    • 5 fl oz. wine (12% ABV)
    • 1.5 fl oz. liquor/hard alcohol (40% ABV)
  • The CDC numbers are different for men and women because their bodies process alcohol differently. However, it’s important to point out that the CDC numbers refer to cisgender males and females. “Cisgender” means that the gender you identify with matches the sex assigned to you at birth. When it comes to gender nonconforming individuals, more research is needed to assess the impact of excessive drinking.
  • It’s also true that for some people, drinking any alcohol is too much. And no matter who you are, drinking less is better for your health than drinking more.

Economic consequences of excessive drinking

  • Excessive drinking costs Oregon $4.8 billion per year from lost earnings for workers and revenue for businesses, health care expenses, criminal justice costs, and car crashes.
  • That’s $1,100 for every person in Oregon, according to a report by ECONorthwest.

Alcohol consumption during the pandemic

  • Many of the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic – increased isolation, lack of social interaction and contact with social supports, increased uncertainty, increased stress, and increased depression and anxiety – may have contributed to an increase in excessive alcohol use and alcohol-induced deaths.
  • A study by RTI International showed excessive alcohol consumption increased considerably for females, Black respondents, and respondents with children based on their research conducted in 2020.
  • In Oregon, the rate of death directly due to alcohol increased substantially (21%) during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rethink the Drink is grounded in significant research

  • From 2017-2019, OHA conducted an Alcohol Formative Audience Assessment (AFAA)
  • In 2020, OHA conducted focus groups with people living in Oregon to test three creative approaches to a public health campaign
  • In Fall 2021, OHA conducted testing of messaging and draft versions of creative materials (video/audio visuals) with focus groups


  • Rethink the Drink is a new brand from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) that aims to change the conversation about excessive alcohol drinking and how excessive alcohol use harms communities in Oregon. The statewide campaign will launch in Summer 2022 and include:
    • Website:
    • Statewide TV, radio, online and newspaper advertisements
    • Facebook and Instagram pages
    • Information for county health departments, community-based organizations, and Tribes to localize the campaign for their communities
  • Rethink the Drink Fact Sheet
  • Rethink the Drink FAQ

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