Vast majority of Americans who drink excessively are not alcoholics

Drinking excessively can cause serious health risks and is responsible for an average of 88,000 deaths every year. But the vast majority of such excessive drinkers are not alcoholics, according to new government data.

Nine out of 10 excessive drinkers are actually not dependent on alcohol, revealed findings within a study released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The study is one of the first national, multi-year looks at alcoholism among excessive drinkers, and debunks the assumption that most excessive drinkers are dependent upon alcohol.

About 10 percent of people who drank excessively also met the clinical definition for alcohol dependence. The vast majority of excessive drinking is binge drinking, a pattern of behavior where men consume roughly five or more drinks and women consume four or more within a short period of time.