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Alcohol came to America with the explorers and colonists. The Mayflower landed at Plymouth in 1620 partly because they were running especially low on beer and the necessary ingredients to ferment more. Spanish missionaries brought grapevines and made wine. The Dutch distilled fermented mixtures in 1640, and in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, brewing ranked next in importance after milling and baking.

Americans still love to drink. Statistics from different national surveys do not agree precisely, but they're close enough to make the following estimates about the drinking behaviors of all adults age 18 and older and college students specifically:

  • About 65% of all adults and 82% of college students consumed at least one drink during the past year.
  • About 50% of all adults and 70% of college students are current drinkers, having consumed at least one drink during the past month.
  • Nearly 23% of all adults and 45% of college students can be classified technically as binge drinkers, defined as having consumed 5 or more drinks on one occasion at least once during the past month.
  • Less than 10% of all adults and college students are considered heavy drinkers, defined as having had five or more drinks on five or more occasions in the past month.